Atlantic Coast Pipeline Canceled Following Years of Legal Challenges
Pipeline owners Dominion and Duke Energy announced Sunday they were cancelling the fossil fuel project due to mounting delays and uncertainty. They said the many legal challenges to the project had driven up the projected costs by almost half, from $4.5 to $5 billion when it was first announced in 2014 to $8 billion according to the most recent estimate.
"If anyone still had questions about whether or not the era of fracked gas was over, this should answer them," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. "Today is a historic victory for clean water, the climate, public health, and our communities. Duke and Dominion did not decide to cancel the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — the people and frontline organizations that led this fight for years forced them into walking away. Today's victory reinforces that united communities are more powerful than the polluting corporations that put profits over our health and future."
VICTORY! Dominion and Duke Energy abandon the Atlantic Coast Pipeline https://t.co/hJhEdmooRj #NoACP #breakingnews https://t.co/iqavGTa4nr— SELC (Environmental Law) (@SELC (Environmental Law))1593986220.0
The utilities' announcement comes a little less than three weeks after the pipeline scored an important legal victory when the Supreme Court ruled that it could pass beneath the Appalachian Trail. But environmental groups at the time pointed out that the project still needed eight other permits.
Early this year, a federal court vacated a permit the pipeline needed to build a natural gas compressor station in Union Hill, a historic Black community in Virginia, after community members successfully argued that it would disproportionately harm the health of the mainly African American residents who lived nearby.
"We the People have overcome today!" Friends of Buckingham, a community group instrumental to the compressor opposition, tweeted Sunday. "Many many hands, hearts n minds are singing it out!"
David & Goliath. We the People have overcome today! Many many hands, hearts n minds are singing it out!… https://t.co/kaqRMQJrH2— Friends of Buckingham (@Friends of Buckingham)1593983772.0
Courts have also tossed permits over the pipeline's plans to cut a visible scar through the forest as it crosses beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway, its crossing of more than 1,500 streams and rivers in West Virginia and its impact on endangered species like the Indiana bat and Madison cave isopod, Sierra Magazine pointed out in 2019.
"All of the ACP's problems are entirely self-inflicted," Greg Buppert, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, told Sierra Magazine at the time. "It was never a good idea to build this pipeline through two national forests, a national park, across the Appalachian Trail, and through the steepest mountains in West Virginia."
But the legal climate described by Duke and Dominion in their statement reflects the growing vulnerability of all fossil fuel pipeline projects. The utilities' cited as a major challenge the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Montana cancelling Nationwide Permit 12, a stream-and wetland-crossing permit used by the Army Corps of Engineers to fast-track infrastructure projects. The ruling was prompted by a legal challenge to the Keystone XL pipeline in particular, but it ended up cancelling the permit for all new oil and gas pipeline projects without further review of their impact on endangered species.
"We regret that we will be unable to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline," Dominion and Duke Energy chairs, presidents, and chief executive officers Thomas F. Farrell, II and Lynn J. Good said in Sunday's statement. "For almost six years we have worked diligently and invested billions of dollars to complete the project and deliver the much-needed infrastructure to our customers and communities. Throughout we have engaged extensively with and incorporated feedback from local communities, labor and industrial leaders, government and permitting agencies, environmental interests and social justice organizations. We express sincere appreciation for the tireless efforts and important contributions made by all who were involved in this essential project. This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States. Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country's energy needs will be significantly challenged."
But the pipeline's opponents insist that pipelines like the ACP are not in fact necessary to meet the country's energy needs.
"The costly and unneeded Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have threatened waterways and communities across its 600-mile path," Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Gillian Giannetti said in a statement reported by The New York Times. "As they abandon this dirty pipe dream, Dominion and Duke should now pivot to investing more in energy efficiency, wind and solar — that's how to provide jobs and a better future for all."
Today's changes to the @ACPipeline #wiki are pretty remarkable. #was #cancelled https://t.co/iiouuZRazQ— Gillian Giannetti (@Gillian Giannetti)1594002878.0
But someone still thinks there is money in fossil fuels. Also on Sunday, Dominion Energy announced that it was selling its natural gas transmission and storage assets to Berkshire Hathaway Energy for an estimated $10 billion, E&E News reported.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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