(Recasts, adds analyst comment, details and background)
Feb 26 (Reuters) - Dominion Energy Inc said on Tuesday it remains “confident” it will complete the $7.0 billion to $7.5 billion Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina despite a court decision denying its request for a rehearing on a permit.
On Monday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Atlantic Coast’s request for an en banc rehearing related to the court’s invalidation of the project’s U.S. Forest Service Appalachian Trail crossing authorization.
The company said it expects to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in the next 90 days and is also pursuing legislative and administrative options to obtain the approvals needed to continue building the pipeline.
The company said it believes it could restart at least partial construction in the third quarter of 2019.
Dominion suspended construction in early December after the appellate court stayed a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that authorized the pipe to be built in areas inhabited by threatened or endangered species.
Analysts at Height Capital Markets in Washington said in a report they believe it would be more prudent for the pipeline to reroute through a section of the Appalachian Trail on private- or state-owned land.
“Re-routing would likely take less time than a Supreme Court proceeding or an Act of Congress,” Height Capital Markets said, noting they expect the pipe will enter service in the fourth quarter of 2020 if the companies remain committed to the project.
On Feb. 1, the company said it planned to put part of the project into service in late 2020 and complete the full 600-mile (966-km) project in early 2021.
When the company started work on Atlantic Coast last spring, Dominion said it expected the project would cost an estimated $6.0 billion to $6.5 billion and be completed in late 2019.
The company boosted that cost estimate to $6.5 billion to $7.0 billion and delayed the completion to mid-2020 last November. In February, it raised the estimate to $7.0 billion to $7.5 billion and delayed the completion to early 2021 due to delays caused by numerous environmental lawsuits, among other things.
Atlantic Coast is designed to carry 1.5 billion cubic feet per day of gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the U.S. Southeast.
It is a partnership between units of Dominion, Duke Energy Corp and Southern Co.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Jonathan Oatis