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The Atlantic Coast Pipeline Fight Could Go to the Supreme Court
The fight over the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline may be headed to the Supreme Court.
Dominion Energy, the lead developer of the project that would carry fracked natural gas for 605 miles through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, said Tuesday it would appeal to the nation's highest court after an appeals court refused to reconsider its decision to throw out a crucial permit for the project on Monday, The Associated Press reported.
Dominion and the U.S. Forest Service had asked the fourth U.S. Court of Appeals for a re-hearing of the court's December 2018 decision to toss the U.S. Forest Service permit allowing the pipeline to cross the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests as well as part of the Appalachian Trail. The court refused.
The court had ruled in December that the U.S. Forest Service did not have the authority to grant the pipeline company permission to cross the Appalachian Trail.
"The Fourth Circuit's decision, now final, confirmed that this pipeline has to play by the same rules as everybody else," Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) Senior Attorney D.J. Gerken said in a press release. "The Forest Service has never approved a new pipeline across the Appalachian Trail — but, under intense political pressure, it did for Atlantic, while ignoring routes that would avoid the forest. Atlantic could reroute, but instead it should scrap this boondoggle and stop running up a bill it wants to stick to customers."
Dominion said it would file an appeal with the Supreme Court within 90 days, The Associated Press reported. It is also seeking "legislative and administrative options" in case the Supreme Court refuses to hear its case, thought it did not specify what those might be.
Gerken speculated to The Associated Press that Dominion might ask Congress to grant the U.S. Forest Service or another body the authority to allow it to cross the trail.
Construction is now stopped along the entire route of the pipeline, and the cost of the project has gone from an estimated $4.5 to 5 billion when first announced to $7 to $7.5 billion, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported. Despite this, the company said it would complete the project and that "at least partial construction will recommence in the third quarter of 2019."
However, pipeline opponents are hoping the company will admit defeat.
"The Fourth Circuit has once again made it clear what everyone but the corporate polluters behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline already know: it is impossible to construct this fracked gas project without causing massive landslides and threatening the Appalachian Trail and our clean water. Any proposal to threaten our communities, our clean water, and our national parks and public lands simply cannot ever be permitted. It's past time that the companies behind the disastrous Atlantic Coast Pipeline abandon this dirty and dangerous project once and for all," Sierra Club Senior Attorney Nathan Matthews said in the SELC release.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.