The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) cleared a key regulatory hurdle this week, when the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) waived the state’s water quality certification (WQC) requirement for the project.

ACP, which was forced last year to push back the in-service date from 4Q2018 to 2019 because of a lengthy federal review process, is still waiting on water quality certifications and other permits in Virginia and North Carolina. Virginia expanded its regulatory review of both ACP and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) over the summer.

FERC issued a certificate order authorizing ACP in October. Under the federal Clean Water Act, however, an applicant must obtain a WQC from affected states unless regulators waive the right. WVDEP said it would instead host two public hearings on a construction stormwater permit for the pipeline on Dec. 18 and Dec. 21.

The stormwater permit does not exist in surrounding states. It was created five years ago to address pipeline construction activities exempt from federal regulations. WVDEP said if the permit is approved, it would give the agency wider inspection and enforcement authority over the pipeline. That, combined with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 permit, would provide enough regulatory oversight, WVDEP said.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality on Wednesday requested more information on an air quality permit for a proposed compressor station. The request, North Carolina regulators said, not only delays the Dec. 15 deadline to issue the permit, but stops the clock until they have the information needed to proceed.

ACP spokesman Aaron Ruby told NGI that the company expects a decision about Virginia’s WQC next week. North Carolina’s certification, along with all other federal and state approvals needed to begin construction are expected by the end of the year.

“The air quality permit in North Carolina is specific to the compressor station and doesn’t have any impact on the overall pipeline construction schedule,” Ruby said. “We don’t even plan to begin compressor station construction until the spring or summer.”

He said ACP remains on track to enter service in 2019. The 600-mile, 1.5 Bcf/d project is a joint venture of Dominion Energy Inc., Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas. It would originate in West Virginia, run southeast through Virginia and into North Carolina. The project is designed to serve growing power generation and heating demand in the Southeast.

Dozens of environmental groups and individuals filed rehearing requests last month challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s certificate order for the project. The Sierra Club on Wednesday derided West Virginia’s decision to waive the WQC, again calling the move a “dereliction of duty” after the agency waived the MVP’s certification last month.

In separate news, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on Thursday issued a WQC for MVP. In response, the Sierra Club said it would sue to stop construction and force the state to conduct a more thorough review of the project.