The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has issued a stay order on the construction of the 59.5km route of the pipeline in the county. This was in response to an emergency motion filed by environmental groups who have been opposing the pipeline project.

The court stated that the administrative stay was ordered to give it enough opportunity to look into the emergency motion for stay of the project.

Williams Partners has been facing opposition from Lancaster Against Pipelines, Lebanon Pipeline Awareness, Allegheny Defense Project, Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County and Clean Air Council, among other environmental groups. The petition groups are represented by the Sierra Club and Appalachian Mountain Advocates.

Sierra Club senior campaign representative Patrick Grenter said: “Williams and FERC can no longer railroad this project without adequately and legally examining the threats Atlantic Sunrise will create for our health, our water, and our air.

“Communities have been forcefully voicing their opposition to this project for years, and we are thankful that they’re one day closer to having their day in court.”

In reply, Williams Partners has filed a Motion for Clarification of the issued administrative stay on its project. The company warned that the uncertainty over the pipeline expansion project puts 8,000 jobs at risk in Pennsylvania while delaying supply of clean, affordable natural gas deliveries to millions of Americans.

Williams Partners chief operating officer Micheal Dunn said: “It is important to stress that this temporary stay is administrative and not related to the project’s execution or its compliance with applicable federal or state regulations or permit conditions.

“It is merely intended to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the motion recently filed by project opponents and is not a ruling on the merits of that motion. Our expectation is that the court will expeditiously complete its review.”

Construction of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline began in mid September in Pennsylvania with the objective to make it ready for full service in mid-2018.

As part of the project, Williams Partners will expand the existing Transco natural gas pipeline to connect rich gas supplies in the Marcellus fields with the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern US markets.

Following the pipeline expansion, the Transco natural gas pipeline is expected to see an increase capacity of 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.