From S&P Global

Houston — Dominion Energy has suspended construction on the full 600-mile route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, except for some ‘stand-down’ activities, after an appeals court stay last week, the company told the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Friday.

Dominion said its action to halt work on the natural gas project was in response to the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals’ stay of implementation of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s biological opinion and incidental take statement. Both documents relate to the project’s impact on vulnerable species.

The court stay is in effect pending review of environmentalists’ challenge to the documents, and oral argument in the case is scheduled in March (Defenders of Wildlife, et al., v. US Fish and Wildlife Service, 18-2090).

Dominion, however, has called the stay “overly broad” and filed an emergency request that the court clarify the geographic scope of the stay or reconsider its pause. Only four species and about 100 miles of the project in West Virginia and Virginia are involved, it said, suggesting, for instance, that those species are not present in North Carolina.

The 1.5 Bcf/d pipeline project is designed to move Appalachian shale gas to downstream Mid-Atlantic markets.

The same court earlier this year struck the previous incidental take statement — which allows for certain actions that unintentionally harm species — for failing to set clear, enforceable limits on such actions.

But the agency issued a new opinion and statement September 11, maintaining its view that the project is unlikely to jeopardize the continued existence of a handful of vulnerable species. It also issued a fresh incidental take statement setting revised numerical limits, among other things.

Environmentalists then went back to court to challenging recently reissued federal permits they contend were rushed through the door.

Southern Environmental Law Center has contended that more surveying was needed and that route alternatives should be considered in light of new information on the presence of the rusty patched bumble bee and a species of mussel known as the clubshell. It also contended that FWS reauthorized the pipeline despite additional data confirming that it would put critically endangered species in jeopardy of extinction. It also argued FWS omitted important habitat for the Indiana bat in its considerations.

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