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Environmental groups file lawsuit challenging FERC approval of pipeline

Environmental groups file lawsuit challenging FERC approval of pipeline

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The lawsuit challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval last year was filed on behalf of 11 conservation groups.

One of the attorneys involved in the suit, Greg Buppert of the Southern Environmental Law Center, spoke of the split nature of the 2-1 approval by FERC commissioners in October. Dissenting FERC Commissioner Cheryl LeFleur questioned the need for the project.

Final state and federal permits are still required and a final go-ahead by FERC before pipeline construction can start.

"FERC demonstrated in its split decision to approve the pipeline that there is lingering doubt about the need for this destructive project in our region," Buppert said. "This agency must change its ineffective review process and protect citizens from expensive and risky pipelines we don't need."

The 600-mile natural gas pipeline, once constructed, would start in West Virginia and travel through Virginia before ending in North Carolina. Approximately 55 miles of the pipeline route would come through Augusta County.

Environmental organizations have opposed the project, and questioned the potential damage to water quality and property needed for the route. 

The suit in the 4th Circuit was filed on behalf of Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Friends of Buckingham, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Shenandoah Valley Network, the Sierra Club, Virginia Wilderness Committee, Wild Virginia and Winyah Rivers Foundation.

Early in January, Virginia U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine wrote FERC and asked the agency to reconsider the approval for both the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. Kaine noted that FERC now has a full complement of five commissioners, but had only three when it gave certificate approval in October.

The senator said in his letter that 98 percent of FERC orders in 2016 were unanimous, not split. Kaine also said that such project approvals should include substantial public input as laid out in federal law. 

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