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DC Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds FERC Approval of Atlantic Sunrise Project

On August 2, 2019, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (“FERC”) orders approving the construction and operation of Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company’s Atlantic Sunrise Project. The Atlantic Sunrise Project is an approximately 196.5 mile 1.7 Bcf/d pipeline spanning from northern Pennsylvania, across the Carolinas and into Alabama. The pipeline was originally approved by FERC in February of 2017 and went into service in the fall of 2018. Opponents of the project sought review of FERC’s orders permitting the pipeline’s expansion and operation.

Specifically, opponents asserted that the Commission: i) improperly conducted its environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”); ii) failed to substantiate market need for the Project as required by the Natural Gas Act; and iii) denied them due process by authorizing construction to commence before the issuance of the Certificate Order could be judicially reviewed.

The D.C. Circuit found that FERC’s NEPA analysis was acceptable, and that FERC appropriately considered individual utility and the reasonableness of the pipeline route; substantiated the requisite market need; and that due process was not denied. The court also found that opponents made no claim that they were deprived of a meaningful opportunity to be heard as part of the FERC certificate process.

Ultimately, the Court denied the petitions for review and deferred to the Commission’s decision to approve the Atlantic Sunrise Project expansion and operation.