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DC Circuit Refuses to Lift Stay on Atlantic Sunrise Construction

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District Columbia on Wednesday partially granted a motion for clarification filed by Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC (Transco), limiting the three-judge panel’s order to stay the Atlantic Sunrise project’s FERC certificate only to construction in Pennsylvania and not other state operations.

Transco was forced to halt construction in Pennsylvania after the appeals court issued the administrative stay on Monday in response to an emergency motion filed by a coalition of environmental groups opposed to the project. In its motion, Transco noted that the stay would also affect operations in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

The company also sought clarification about how the stay applies to mainline replacements and compressor modifications on the project that started partial service over the summer to move 400,000 Dth/d. The court said those operations are not included in the stay. The judges also denied Transco’s request that the environmental groups be charged a bond of $8 million per day for the duration of the stay.

The groups sought the emergency motion last week, claiming the threat of “imminent irreparable harm from further construction of the project,” after greenfield building got underway in September. Declarations supporting the emergency motion came only from petitioners living in Pennsylvania.

Construction is underway in six spreads across Pennsylvania, and Transco said only one family supporting the motion resides within a construction spread. The company wanted clarification about whether it should only stop construction there, but the court ordered the stay be applied to construction statewide, where the bulk of the greenfield portion of the project would be located.

The groups, represented by the Appalachian Mountain Advocates and the Sierra Club, have requested that construction not move forward until the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission conducts a comprehensive environmental review. When the Commission failed to respond to a rehearing request, they filed earlier this year in the DC Circuit for a petition for review of Atlantic Sunrise’s certificate order.

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