Federal Ruling on Controversial Pipeline May Halt Construction
Opponents of the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia's Highland Country and into North Carolina, won a reprieve Tuesday when a federal appeals court invalidated a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) review of the pipeline, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
The ruling was issued by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Richmond, VA and agreed with environmental groups and their lawyers that the incidental take statement made by the FWS, which limits the number of endangered species that can be killed during construction and operation of a project, was not clear enough in the case of the pipeline.
"We conclude, for reasons to be more fully explained in a forthcoming opinion, that the limits set by the agency are so indeterminate that they undermine the incidental take statement's enforcement and monitoring function under the Endangered Species Act," the judges wrote, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The case was argued by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and Virginia Wilderness Committee. The pipeline opponents argued that the ruling meant the pipeline had to halt construction.
"This fracked gas project has been proven to be perilous to our health, our communities, and wildlife, and now, thanks to tonight's ruling, must be stopped," Sierra Club attorney Nathan Matthews said in a press release.
But Dominion Energy, the company leading pipeline construction, disagreed with that interpretation of the ruling. "[W]e will continue to move forward with construction as scheduled," Dominion Energy director of communications Jen Kostyniuk said in an email obtained by U.S. News and World Report.
The pipeline could harm eight threatened or endangered species, including the Roanoke logperch and Indiana and Northern long-eared bats, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Southern Environmental Law Center attorney D.J. Gerken explained the decision in more detail. According to Gerken, the FWS had said a "small percent" of threatened or endangered species could be killed during the pipeline's construction without ever defining what that percent was.
"A small percent would never get triggered because nobody knows what it is," he told The Richmond Times-Dispatch "This is an unnecessary and destructive project. And sending them back to the drawing board is a necessary step to asking those fundamental questions about whether we need it," he said.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is one of two pipelines in the region that has sparked opposition in the past year due to concerns about their impact on mountain streams and springs, the use of fracking to obtain the gas, the need for more fossil fuel infrastructure given the threat of climate change and the use of eminent domain to force the hand of landowners who didn't want the pipeline traversing their property.Opponents of the other pipeline, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, resorted to tree-sitting in April to try and stop its progress.
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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