Dominion does not expect U.S. court order to hold up Atlantic Coast pipe

(Reuters) - Dominion Energy Inc said on Tuesday it does not expect a court decision to stay a federal permit for part of its Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline to delay construction of the $6-$6.5 billion project from West Virginia to North Carolina, which the company aims to complete by the end of 2019.

FILE PHOTO - Dominion Resources Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Farrell speaks during the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston March 8, 2012. REUTERS/Richard Carson

On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an order staying implementation of a permit from the U.S. Forest Service for the pipeline.

That Forest Service permit authorized construction and operation of Atlantic Coast on national forest lands in Virginia and West Virginia.

Dominion said the Forest Service permit affects only 20 miles (32-km) of the 600-mile pipeline designed to carry 1.5-billion cubic feet per day. One billion cubic feet is enough to fuel about 5 million U.S. homes for a day.

“While we respectfully disagree with the Court’s ruling, it will not have a significant impact on our construction schedule,” Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby said in an email.

“We will continue working in all other areas of West Virginia and North Carolina, where we are making significant progress,” Ruby said.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, which opposes the pipeline, asked the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Tuesday to stop work on the entire project due to the court’s latest ruling.

The Fourth Circuit decision was the third time in four months the court has vacated or stayed federal authorizations for Atlantic Coast, the Southern Environmental Law Center said in its FERC filing.

FERC regulates construction of interstate gas pipelines and has temporarily stopped work on parts of the Atlantic Coast project in the past due to prior Fourth Circuit court rulings.

“Opponents’ delay tactics will not stop this project. They will only drive up consumer energy costs, delay the transition to cleaner energy, and make it harder for public utilities to reliably serve their customers,” Ruby said, noting “We will complete this project.”

Atlantic Coast is a partnership between units of Virginia energy company Dominion (48 percent), North Carolina’s Duke Energy Corp (47 percent) and Georgia energy company Southern Co (5 percent). Dominion will build and operate the pipe.

Atlantic Coast is one of several pipelines currently under construction to connect growing output from the Marcellus and Utica shale basins in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to customers in other parts of the United States and Canada.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by David Gregorio