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California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. Gage Skidmore / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

California Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed new restrictions on oil exploration in his state yesterday by putting a moratorium on hundreds hydraulic fracturing permits until the projects are reviewed by independent scientists, as the AP reported.

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A pump jack and frac tanks stand in a field being developed for drilling next to a farm over the Monterey Shale formation on March 24, 2014 near Lost Hills, California. David McNew / Getty Images

Environmental groups are suing to stop the Trump administration from fracking in California.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Heavy equipment sits on the edge of a rocky stream bank as part of U.S. Bureau of Land Management-Forest Service reclamation efforts for abandoned oil and gas wells in the eastern U.S. Bureau of Land Management

By Justin Mikulka

In over their heads with debt, U.S. shale oil and gas firms are now moving from a boom in fracking to a boom in bankruptcies. This trend of failing finances has the potential for the U.S. public, both at the state and federal levels, to be left on the hook for paying to properly shut down and clean up even more drilling sites.

Read More Show Less
Crude oil extraction pump pulling crude oil up to the surface and pushing it into pipelines in the Permian Basin in West Texas on May 27, 2018. ©Studio One-One / Moment / Getty Images

By Justin Mikulka

ExxonMobil is a company capable of contradictions. It has been lobbying against government efforts to address climate change while running ads touting its own efforts to do so.

Read More Show Less
An oil well pumps in Long Beach, California. Proximity to a well and the level of production were found to be significantly associated with poor birth outcomes. David McNew / Getty Images

By Nina Lakhani

Living near active oil and gas wells during pregnancy increases the risk of low-birthweight babies, especially in rural areas, according to the largest study of its kind.

Read More Show Less
The message of the global movement to ban fracking and get off fossil fuels envisions a different future, one that starts with cutting off pollution at the source. cta88 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Wenonah Hauter

Donald Trump's scheduled visit to a fracking industry gathering in Pittsburgh this week is a hugely symbolic moment for the 2020 election campaign, as well as the urgent battle to contain climate catastrophe.

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Well Blowout

By Julie Dermansky

A fracked natural gas well in northwest Louisiana has been burning for two weeks after suffering a blowout. A state official said the fire will likely burn for the next month before the flames can be brought under control by drilling a relief well.

Read More Show Less
The part of the Appalachian Trail that the Supreme Court ruled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline can tunnel under. Norm Shafer/ The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 Monday that the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) can pass underneath the Appalachian Trail.

The ruling removes one barrier to the pipeline, which has been delayed six years, but it still requires eight other permits, and environmental groups vowed to keep fighting.

"With the ACP still lacking 8 permits, this decision is just plugging just one hole on a sinking ship," director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Kelly Martin said in a statement. "Nothing in today's ruling changes the fact that the fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a dirty, dangerous threat to our health, climate and communities, and nothing about the ruling changes our intention to fight it."

The pipeline, a joint project of Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, would carry fracked natural gas 600 miles from West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina, as NPR reported.

At stake in Monday's decision is the part of its route that would cross the Appalachian Trail in Central Virginia where the trail overlaps with the George Washington National Forest.

The Forest Service granted the pipeline a permit for the crossing in 2018, but a coalition of environmental groups led by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) sued, arguing that the trail crossing was under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and tossed the Forest Service permit in December of that year.

But the companies appealed and the Supreme Court ruled in their favor Monday, arguing that the Forest Service controlled the land and had just granted the National Park Service a right of way to maintain the trail.

"If a rancher granted a neighbor an easement across his land for a horse trail, no one would think that the rancher had conveyed ownership over that land," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority, NPR reported.

Only Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan disagreed.

"In her noteworthy dissent, Justice Sotomayor clearly gets what should be obvious: that the Appalachian Trail is land in the National Park system," Natural Resources Defense Council Climate & Clean Energy Program attorney Gillian Gianettti said in a statement. "And under federal law, a pipeline plainly cannot cross land in the National Park system."

Dominion celebrated the court's decision.

"Today's decision is an affirmation for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and communities across our region that are depending on it for jobs, economic growth and clean energy," the company said in a statement reported by Reuters. "We look forward to resolving the remaining project permits."

However, SELC said the remaining permits could be a major hurdle to the project. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the Forest Service permit on three other grounds not covered by the Supreme Court decision, NPR reported. The project also lacks permits relating to its impacts on endangered species, air and water, SELC pointed out.

The organization also pointed out that the decision comes as both Virginia and North Carolina are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. Virginia passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act in April, which requires utilities to shut down all gas plants by 2045. And North Carolina's Clean Energy Plan requires the state to reduce emissions to 70 percent of 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. A pending case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will determine if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was correct in determining the ACP necessary when it granted it a permit in 2017.

"This is not a viable project," SELC program director DJ Gerken said. "It is still missing many required authorizations, including the Forest Service permit at issue in today's case, and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will soon consider the mounting evidence that we never needed this pipeline to supply power. It's time for these developers to move on and reinvest the billions of dollars planned for this boondoggle into the renewable energy that Virginia and North Carolina customers want and deserve."

The Supreme Court decision could greenlight another contested Appalachian pipeline however, Reuters pointed out. The Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would run 300 miles from West Virginia to Southern Virginia, also crosses the Appalachian Trail in the Jefferson National Forest. It is almost finished, but construction at the trail crossing was halted to await the outcome of the ACP case.

Trending

Cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on could fall heavily on the public.
Susan Vineyard / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Justin Mikulka

Increasingly, U.S. shale firms appear unable to pay back investors for the money borrowed to fuel the last decade of the fracking boom. In a similar vein, those companies also seem poised to stiff the public on cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on.

Read More Show Less
A pronghorn runs through the Pinedale Anticline natural gas field in Wyoming in 2008. Theo Stein / USFWS

By Tara Lohan

In January 2015 North Dakota experienced one of the worst environmental disasters in its history: A pipeline burst, spilling nearly 3 million gallons of briny, saltwater waste from nearby oil-drilling operations into two creek beds. The wastewater, which flowed all the way to the Missouri River, contained chloride concentrations high enough to kill any wildlife that encountered it.

Read More Show Less
In a series of major wins for climate campaigners, New York regulators and Cuomo have repeatedly blocked construction of the $1 billion Williams Pipeline. Michael Brochstein / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

With the nation focused on the coronavirus pandemic and protests against U.S. police brutality that have sprung up across the globe, the Trump administration continues to quietly attack federal policies that protect public health and the environment to limit the legal burdens faced by planet-wrecking fossil fuel companies.

Read More Show Less
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. Gage Skidmore / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

California Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed new restrictions on oil exploration in his state yesterday by putting a moratorium on hundreds hydraulic fracturing permits until the projects are reviewed by independent scientists, as the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
A pump jack and frac tanks stand in a field being developed for drilling next to a farm over the Monterey Shale formation on March 24, 2014 near Lost Hills, California. David McNew / Getty Images

Environmental groups are suing to stop the Trump administration from fracking in California.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Heavy equipment sits on the edge of a rocky stream bank as part of U.S. Bureau of Land Management-Forest Service reclamation efforts for abandoned oil and gas wells in the eastern U.S. Bureau of Land Management

By Justin Mikulka

In over their heads with debt, U.S. shale oil and gas firms are now moving from a boom in fracking to a boom in bankruptcies. This trend of failing finances has the potential for the U.S. public, both at the state and federal levels, to be left on the hook for paying to properly shut down and clean up even more drilling sites.

Read More Show Less
Crude oil extraction pump pulling crude oil up to the surface and pushing it into pipelines in the Permian Basin in West Texas on May 27, 2018. ©Studio One-One / Moment / Getty Images

By Justin Mikulka

ExxonMobil is a company capable of contradictions. It has been lobbying against government efforts to address climate change while running ads touting its own efforts to do so.

Read More Show Less
An oil well pumps in Long Beach, California. Proximity to a well and the level of production were found to be significantly associated with poor birth outcomes. David McNew / Getty Images

By Nina Lakhani

Living near active oil and gas wells during pregnancy increases the risk of low-birthweight babies, especially in rural areas, according to the largest study of its kind.

Read More Show Less
The message of the global movement to ban fracking and get off fossil fuels envisions a different future, one that starts with cutting off pollution at the source. cta88 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Wenonah Hauter

Donald Trump's scheduled visit to a fracking industry gathering in Pittsburgh this week is a hugely symbolic moment for the 2020 election campaign, as well as the urgent battle to contain climate catastrophe.

Read More Show Less
Well Blowout

By Julie Dermansky

A fracked natural gas well in northwest Louisiana has been burning for two weeks after suffering a blowout. A state official said the fire will likely burn for the next month before the flames can be brought under control by drilling a relief well.

Read More Show Less
The part of the Appalachian Trail that the Supreme Court ruled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline can tunnel under. Norm Shafer/ The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 Monday that the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) can pass underneath the Appalachian Trail.

The ruling removes one barrier to the pipeline, which has been delayed six years, but it still requires eight other permits, and environmental groups vowed to keep fighting.

"With the ACP still lacking 8 permits, this decision is just plugging just one hole on a sinking ship," director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Kelly Martin said in a statement. "Nothing in today's ruling changes the fact that the fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a dirty, dangerous threat to our health, climate and communities, and nothing about the ruling changes our intention to fight it."

The pipeline, a joint project of Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, would carry fracked natural gas 600 miles from West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina, as NPR reported.

At stake in Monday's decision is the part of its route that would cross the Appalachian Trail in Central Virginia where the trail overlaps with the George Washington National Forest.

The Forest Service granted the pipeline a permit for the crossing in 2018, but a coalition of environmental groups led by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) sued, arguing that the trail crossing was under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and tossed the Forest Service permit in December of that year.

But the companies appealed and the Supreme Court ruled in their favor Monday, arguing that the Forest Service controlled the land and had just granted the National Park Service a right of way to maintain the trail.

"If a rancher granted a neighbor an easement across his land for a horse trail, no one would think that the rancher had conveyed ownership over that land," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority, NPR reported.

Only Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan disagreed.

"In her noteworthy dissent, Justice Sotomayor clearly gets what should be obvious: that the Appalachian Trail is land in the National Park system," Natural Resources Defense Council Climate & Clean Energy Program attorney Gillian Gianettti said in a statement. "And under federal law, a pipeline plainly cannot cross land in the National Park system."

Dominion celebrated the court's decision.

"Today's decision is an affirmation for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and communities across our region that are depending on it for jobs, economic growth and clean energy," the company said in a statement reported by Reuters. "We look forward to resolving the remaining project permits."

However, SELC said the remaining permits could be a major hurdle to the project. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the Forest Service permit on three other grounds not covered by the Supreme Court decision, NPR reported. The project also lacks permits relating to its impacts on endangered species, air and water, SELC pointed out.

The organization also pointed out that the decision comes as both Virginia and North Carolina are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. Virginia passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act in April, which requires utilities to shut down all gas plants by 2045. And North Carolina's Clean Energy Plan requires the state to reduce emissions to 70 percent of 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. A pending case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will determine if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was correct in determining the ACP necessary when it granted it a permit in 2017.

"This is not a viable project," SELC program director DJ Gerken said. "It is still missing many required authorizations, including the Forest Service permit at issue in today's case, and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will soon consider the mounting evidence that we never needed this pipeline to supply power. It's time for these developers to move on and reinvest the billions of dollars planned for this boondoggle into the renewable energy that Virginia and North Carolina customers want and deserve."

The Supreme Court decision could greenlight another contested Appalachian pipeline however, Reuters pointed out. The Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would run 300 miles from West Virginia to Southern Virginia, also crosses the Appalachian Trail in the Jefferson National Forest. It is almost finished, but construction at the trail crossing was halted to await the outcome of the ACP case.

Trending

Cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on could fall heavily on the public.
Susan Vineyard / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Justin Mikulka

Increasingly, U.S. shale firms appear unable to pay back investors for the money borrowed to fuel the last decade of the fracking boom. In a similar vein, those companies also seem poised to stiff the public on cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on.

Read More Show Less
A pronghorn runs through the Pinedale Anticline natural gas field in Wyoming in 2008. Theo Stein / USFWS

By Tara Lohan

In January 2015 North Dakota experienced one of the worst environmental disasters in its history: A pipeline burst, spilling nearly 3 million gallons of briny, saltwater waste from nearby oil-drilling operations into two creek beds. The wastewater, which flowed all the way to the Missouri River, contained chloride concentrations high enough to kill any wildlife that encountered it.

Read More Show Less
In a series of major wins for climate campaigners, New York regulators and Cuomo have repeatedly blocked construction of the $1 billion Williams Pipeline. Michael Brochstein / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

With the nation focused on the coronavirus pandemic and protests against U.S. police brutality that have sprung up across the globe, the Trump administration continues to quietly attack federal policies that protect public health and the environment to limit the legal burdens faced by planet-wrecking fossil fuel companies.

Read More Show Less
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch