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Court rejects pipeline's request for new panel of judges

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court has denied a request from a company building a natural gas pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia to have a new panel of judges reconsider permits that have been struck down repeatedly .

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the motion from Mountain Valley Pipeline in a one-sentence order filed late Wednesday, The Roanoke Times reported.

Last month, the company filed a motion asking for a new panel to be assigned at random.

The 303-mile (487-kilometer) pipeline, which is mostly finished, would transport natural gas drilled from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations through West Virginia and Virginia. Legal battles have delayed completion by nearly four years and doubled the pipeline’s cost, now estimated at $6.6 billion.

Three-member panels are randomly assigned for incoming cases, but rules allow for the same judges to remain with a case sometimes when it comes up again. However, the company asserted that the Fourth Circuit didn’t follow its internal operating procedures.

The company also argued that the court’s continued rejection of government approvals, often by the same three judges, threatens public confidence in the court. But those who support keeping the same judges on similar cases argue that it’s more efficient as the judges can be more familiar with the history of cases and complex issues.