The U.S. Solicitor General asked the Supreme Court Wednesday to extend the time the government has to file a petition in an appeal of a circuit court decision preventing Dominion Energy from building the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline (Acp) across the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco is seeking a one-month extension, until June 25. Otherwise, the time to file a petition expires on May 28, Kallanish Energy reports.
Some analysts think Dominion could cancel the pipeline if the Supreme Court does not hear the case because the project’s costs have skyrocketed due to legal and regulatory delays.
In December, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a permit that allowed the pipe to cross the Appalachian Trail on National Forest land, Reuters reported.
The court determined the Forest Service lacks authority to grant pipeline rights-of-way across the trail on federal land.
Dominion said it welcomed news the Solicitor General would join the case, noting for decades 56 other pipelines have crossed the Appalachian Trail and gone operational.
Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell said Dominion hopes to overcome other legal challenges that will allow the company to resume construction of the roughly $7.25 billion pipeline in the third quarter, and complete it by early 2021.
Dominion suspended construction in early December after the Fourth Circuit stayed a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit that authorized building the pipe in areas inhabited by threatened or endangered species.
Analysts at Height Capital Markets in Washington, D.C., told Reuters they expect the Supreme Court to grant the extension, but do not expect the court to take up the case.
“If the court declines to hear the case, we anticipate Dominion and Duke will decide to terminate the project as rerouting the pipeline would likely be cost prohibitive,” the Height Capital Markets analysts said, noting it will be “extremely difficult” for the utilities to pass on additional costs to ratepayers.
Acp is a partnership between Dominion, Duke Energy and Southern Co.
When Dominion started work on the 600-mile line from West Virginia to North Carolina in the spring of 2018, the company estimated it would cost $6.0 billion to $6.5 billion, and be completed in late 2019.
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