Court Tosses Controversial Pipeline Permits, Rules Forest Service Failed to ‘Speak for the Trees’
The Lorax would not approve of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—the controversial pipeline intended to carry fracked natural gas through 600 miles in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. That's the sentiment behind a ruling by a Virginia appeals court Thursday tossing out a U.S. Forest Service permit for the pipeline to cross 21 miles of national forest in Virginia, including a part of the Appalachian Trail, The News & Observer reported.
"We trust the United States Forest Service to 'speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues,'" the Richmond, Virginia U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit wrote in its ruling, quoting the Dr. Seuss classic. "A thorough review of the record leads to the necessary conclusion that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources. This conclusion is particularly informed by the Forest Service's serious environmental concerns that were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company's deadlines."
Federal court on Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit: "The Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve natio… https://t.co/5Gru1LfyIS— The Virginia Mercury (@The Virginia Mercury)1544730239.0
Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and the Southern Company, the companies behind the pipeline, had sought permission to cross the George Washington National Forest and the Monongahela National Forest. Work would have required clearing a 125-foot path for construction through the forests and leaving a 50 foot path around the pipeline for maintenance. Sierra Club lawyer Nathan Matthews told The News & Observer that the companies would have to build 50 to 100 more miles to navigate around the forests.
"This is a really consequential decision for this project," Greg Buppert, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, which brought the lawsuit against the permit on behalf of several environmental groups including the Sierra Club, told The Virginia Mercury. "If I were Dominion I would be panicked."
The court's decision comes nearly a week after the same court halted construction on the pipeline until it can rule on permits granted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowing the pipeline to build in the habitat of four endangered species. Thursday's decision introduces yet another setback to the project.
"This decision reinforces that the tide has turned against fracked gas pipelines," Matthews said in a Sierra Club statement. These dirty and destructive projects are no longer a done deal. It's simple, there is no right way to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—or any fracked gas pipeline. For the sake of our health, climate, communities, and its own ratepayers, Dominion should abandon this dirty, dangerous project once and for all."
"There is no right way to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline -- or any fracked gas pipeline. For the sake of our hea… https://t.co/62THRGu3aq— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1544729854.0
Dominion Energy is reportedly planning to ask Congress for a workaround to the decision, according to The Virginia Mercury.
"If allowed to stand, this decision will severely harm consumers and do great damage to our economy and energy security," pipeline spokesman Aaron Ruby wrote in an email to The News & Observer. "Public utilities are depending on this infrastructure to meet the basic energy needs of millions of people and businesses in our region."
The court, on the other hand, suggested that the pipeline could severely harm the forests. It found that the Forest Service had raised concerns about the impact construction would have on erosion, sedimentation, increased landslide risk and the habitat of the little brown bat, which is endangered in Virginia. But it then dismissed those concerns when it approved permits in November 2017 and January 2018.
The court also ruled that the Forest Service could not authorize the pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail, which is under the management of the National Park System, The Virginia Mercury reported.
"At the very least this sends Dominion back to the drawing board," Buppert told The Virginia Mercury. "And at some point, the costs of this project get too outrageous."
With Treetop Protest, 61-Year-Old Red Terry Leads Fight Against Mountain Valley Pipeline https://t.co/kvIkoZQL7k… https://t.co/BVNFojO1fv— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1524519909.0
- Thousands of Miles of Pipelines Enrage Landowners, Threaten the ... ›
- North Carolina Denies Key Water Permit to Mountain Valley Pipeline Extension - EcoWatch ›
People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>