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Work to resume on Atlantic Coast pipeline

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World Pipelines,

Williams Partners LP has been cleared by a federal court to resume construction on a US$3 billion pipeline that will transport shale gas across the eastern US.

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit denied a request from environmentalists and landowners to stay approval of the Atlantic Sunrise project pending its review, saying they didn’t satisfy “stringent requirements.” An administrative stay that temporarily halted work on the pipeline earlier this week was also lifted.

“We will promptly resume construction activities on this important pipeline project, which will leverage existing energy infrastructure to deliver economic growth and help millions of Americans gain access to affordable Pennsylvania-produced clean-burning natural gas,” Williams said in a statement late on Wednesday.

Both Cabot and Williams have been projecting a mid-2018 startup of the Atlantic Sunrise project.

The lifting of the stay marked the latest turn of events in a week of rapid-fire legal action over the controversial project.

On Monday, the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC had granted pipeline opponents’ request for an emergency stay on construction while the court considered the group’s challenge to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s ruling approving the Atlantic Sunrise.

The stock of Cabot Oil & Gas, which would be the Atlantic Sunrise’s largest user, dropped more than 5% on news of the stay.

Pipeline builder Williams Partners sought clarification of the order. It labelled the activists as “opponents of American energy” and asked the court to order them to post security of US$8 million/d. 

At first, the court said on Wednesday that Williams could not proceed with further construction. It denied the security bond request.

But late on Wednesday, the court issued a follow-up order ending the emergency stay.

In a statement, Williams said it was pleased by the court’s action.

Approximately 2300 people are working on the pipeline, which will run from northern Pennsylvania to southwestern Lancaster County. About half of those workers are from Pennsylvania, while the rest are out-of-state crews. Williams says the pipeline will support an additional 6000 jobs in related industries.

Williams subsidiary Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. started site work in September on the project, an extension of the company's existing Transco pipeline, after several years of back-and-forth with state and federal regulators.

The company continues to draw criticism from groups worried about the pipeline's environmental impact and safety, as well as the company's use of eminent domain to seize easements needed for the project.

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