The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the US has issued a notice to proceed for a controversial US$3 billion natural gas pipeline project.

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Sections of steel pipe are held in temporary storage yards in preparation for the Atlantic Sunrise project

The 317 km-long Atlantic Sunrise pipeline will become part of a US network owned by Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co (Transco), carrying natural gas between the Gulf Coast and the Eastern Seaboard.

The project, being developed by Oklahoma-based Williams Partners, has met with opposition from both environmental and religious groups, including an order of Catholic nuns. The nuns have filed a religious freedom lawsuit against Transco, while another group, Members of Lancaster Against Pipelines, have built an open-air chapel on the proposed pipeline route.

Chris Stockton, a spokesman for the developers, said the suit “does not affect our right to start pipeline construction as scheduled.”

Currently, teams are being assembled by the project’s primary contractors, Henkels & McCoy, Latex Construction Co, Michels Corp and Welded Construction, who will work simultaneously on different sections of the pipeline.

Initially, crews in Columbia and Wyoming will be tasked with building compressor stations, which will help move the gas through the pipeline.

With work set to begin as soon as this month, Williams Partners is anticipating the project will be completed by the middle of next year.

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