Crews have started cutting down trees to make way for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Dominion Energy says it is clearing trees along the projected route in Robeson and Cumberland counties this week. The 600-mile natural gas pipeline would run from West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina along the I-95 corridor.
"The tree felling is really the first step in the pre-construction process to prepare the right-of-way for full construction activity that we expect to begin by early spring," Atlantic Coast Pipeline Spokesman Aaron Ruby said.
The work comes after the pipeline got approvals for several permits, including a major water quality certification from the state Department of Environmental Quality last week.
Meanwhile, several conservation groups filed a petition this week with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to stop the project. They have criticized the approval process, and said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission did not show a true need for the pipeline.
Ruby said the petition will not stop construction. The pipeline is still on schedule to start operating late next year. The state Department of Environmental Quality says the energy companies still need air quality and other stormwater permits.