The permit by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that allowed Dominion Energy Inc. to build its Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina was vacated by a U.S. appeals court on Friday.
The Fourth Circuit Chief Judge Roger Gregory said in the court’s opinion that the Fish and Wildlife Service “fast-tracked” its decision to reissue an incidental take statement in 2018 a mere 19 days after federal energy regulators resumed formal consultation with the agency following the court’s decision to stay a version of the permit from 2017. The permit allowed Dominion to build the pipeline in areas inhabited by threatened or endangered species.
“In fast-tracking its decisions, the agency appears to have lost sight of its mandate under the (Endangered Species Act),” Gregory said, noting the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decisions in granting the 2018 incidental take statement were “arbitrary and capricious.”
Dominion estimated that the 600 mile pipe, which started to build in the spring of 2018 would cost $6.0-$6.5 billion and be able to complete in late 2019. But with the current and other legal challenges, the company hopes to complete the project by the end of 2021 with a construction cost of $7.0-$7.5 billion.