A large natural gas project has just passed another regulatory milepost in North Carolina.

State regulators approved the Atlantic Coast Pipeline earlier today, and critics quickly responded with vows to challenge the decision in court. Environmentalists claim thousands of people oppose the project.

For now, the Department of Environmental Quality's green light allows the pipeline to be built through and under wetlands, marshes and other waterways, traversing eight counties roughly parallel to Interstate 95.

The 600-mile pipeline would extend from West Virginia through eastern North Carolina, bringing natural gas from fracking operations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Duke Energy power plants. The company is replacing its aging coal-burning plants with modern natural gas burners, and characterized the approval as a win-win for the economy and environment.

Governor Roy Cooper says he views natural gas as a bridge to a completely renewable energy future.

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