July 25 (Reuters) - Dominion Energy Inc said on Wednesday that its $6-$6.5 billion Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina remained on track to enter service in late 2019 after federal regulators approved the start of construction for the project in North Carolina.
"Yesterday's approval was another major step forward for the project and keeps us on track for late 2019 in-service," Aaron Ruby, a spokesman at Dominion, said in an email.
The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued that approval in a filing Tuesday afternoon.
Like other pipeline approvals, FERC said "if any court or agency invalidates a required federal authorization after construction has begun...(FERC) may take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the protection of environmental resources, including issuance of a stop work order."
The Sierra Club, an environmental group opposing the pipeline, said in a statement following the FERC decision that the project is facing multiple lawsuits and a challenge that could force a rehearing at FERC.
The Sierra Club also said the Virginia State Water Control Board is revisiting the sufficiency of the project's current water certifications, which could be revoked.
The 600-mile (966-km) Atlantic Coast project is designed to carry about 1.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to customers in Virginia and North Carolina.
One billion cubic feet of gas is enough to fuel about 5 million U.S. homes for a day.
Atlantic Coast is a partnership between units of Virginia energy company Dominion (48 percent), North Carolina's Duke Energy Corp (47 percent) and Georgia energy company Southern Co (5 percent). Dominion will build and operate the pipe.
To feed gas into Atlantic Coast and other pipelines, Dominion also wants to build the 38-mile (61-km) Supply Header project in West Virginia and Pennsylvania at a cost of about $500 million.
Atlantic Coast is one of several big pipelines expected to enter service over the next couple of years to connect growing output in the Marcellus and Utica shale basins with customers in other parts of the United States and Canada.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino Editing by Alistair Bell