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.
The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.
This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.
"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.
By Shana Udvardy
After a dearth of action on climate change and a record year of extreme events in 2017, the inclusion of climate change policies within the annual legislation Congress considers to outline its defense spending priorities (the National Defense Authorization Act) for fiscal year 2018 was welcome progress. House and Senate leaders pushed to include language that mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) incorporate climate change in their facility planning (see more on what this section of the bill does here and here) as well as issue a report on the impacts of climate change on military installations. Unfortunately, what DoD produced fell far short of what was mandated.
Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.
Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor.