Pipeline Project Hindered by Legal Uncertainties
Late last month, ALEC published an article celebrating a Supreme Court victory for the much-anticipated Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Following this article’s publication, the two primary investors behind the pipeline, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, released a statement announcing that they no longer plan to complete the project. Citing recent court decisions and underlying uncertainties in the judicial system as their basis, the companies claimed that there is no further justification for dedicating shareholder investments to the pipeline in such an uncertain landscape.
This decision was immediately followed by a separate court decision in the District of Colombia, in which a federal judge ordered a halt of the flow of oil through the Dakota Access Pipeline – a separate project that has faced significant backlash, particularly from Native American tribes and advocates. The shutdown was to take place while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked to complete a retroactive environmental impact report for their previous granting of an easement for the pipeline to cross the Missouri River. However, this ordered shut down was quickly reversed by an appellate court just a few days later, allowing the pipeline to operate amid the legal battles.
These events highlight the growing tension and uncertainty surrounding the construction of pipelines for the transportation of oil and natural gas. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was shut down before construction even began, while the operational Dakota Access Pipeline is already a crucial component in the energy infrastructure for many different industries in the region. These examples prove that despite after seemingly doing everything right and even completing a project, the legal battles in this space are never-ending. If America wants to continue having affordable and reliable energy, legal reform is needed to stop frivolous lawsuits at every decision point for energy infrastructure.