Acting in concert with a stay issued by the Interior Department’s Office of Hearings and Appeals, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has ordered Southern Natural Gas to stop its recently-begun construction work in a wildlife preserve along its mainline expansion route into northern Alabama.

The latest in the marathon case (CP96-153) to authorize a second pipeline supplier for the towns of Huntsville and Decatur, AL, came after landowners protesting the project successfully stayed a Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) ruling allowing construction through the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. A letter order then was issued by FERC’s Office of Pipeline Regulation halting construction work in the wildlife refuge until the FWS complaint (D99-18) is resolved.

Veteran environmentalist Anne Marie Mueser and the GASP Coalition, which is opposing the 120-mile, 70 MMcf/d Southern Natural extension, have asked FERC to halt construction on other segments of the pipeline until the wildlife complaint – which has sparked a jurisdictional dispute within the Interior Dept. – is resolved. The stays on environmental grounds came after FERC overruled opposition by Midcoast Interstate Transmission, the current supplier of the two Alabama towns and authorized the Southern Natural extension. The coalition has appealed the FERC order in the D.C. Circuit Court.

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