The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
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."
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
Wolves and Jaguars Are Already Threatened by Border Razor Wire As Trump Vetoes Bid to Block Emergency Wall Funding
President Donald Trump issued the first veto of his presidency Friday, overturning Congress' vote to block his national emergency declaration to fund a border wall that environmental advocates say would put 93 endangered species at risk. However, the president's decision came the same day as an in-depth report from UPI revealing how razor wire placed at the border in the last four months already threatens wildlife.
Yet another whale has died after ingesting plastic bags. A young male Cuvier's beaked whale was found washed up in Mabini, Compostela Valley in the Philippines Friday, CNN reported. When scientists from the D' Bone Collector Museum in Davao investigated the dead whale, they found it had died of "dehydration and starvation" after swallowing plastic bags―40 kilograms (approximately 88 pounds) worth of them!
By Joe Sandler Clarke
"Don't expect us to continue buying European products," Malaysia's former plantations minister Mah Siew Keong told reporters in January last year. His comments came just after he had accused the EU of "practising a form of crop apartheid."
A few months later Luhut Pandjaitan, an Indonesian government minister close to President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, warned his country would retaliate if it was "cornered" by the EU.
By Luis Torres
For some people who live along the U.S.-Mexico border, President Trump's attempt to declare a national emergency and extend the border wall is worse than a wasteful, unconstitutional stunt. It's an attack on their way of life that threatens to desecrate their loved ones' graves.
At least 150 people have died in a cyclone that devastated parts of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi over the weekend, The Associated Press reported Sunday. Cyclone Idai has affected more than 1.5 million people since it hit Mozambique's port city of Beira late Thursday, then traveled west to Zimbabwe and Malawi. Hundreds are still missing and tens of thousands are without access to roads or telephones.
"I think this is the biggest natural disaster Mozambique has ever faced. Everything is destroyed. Our priority now is to save human lives," Mozambique's Environment Minister Celso Correia said, as AFP reported.