Quantcast

Court Tosses Controversial Pipeline Permits, Rules Forest Service Failed to ‘Speak for the Trees’

Energy
McAfee Knob along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Appalachian Trail Conservancy / NPS

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."

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."

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."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

MStudioImages / E+ / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Backpacking is an exciting way to explore the wilderness or travel to foreign countries on a budget.

Read More Show Less
Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Winfield, Missouri this month. Jonathan Rehg / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.

Read More Show Less