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A climate activist holds a victory sign in Washington, DC. after President Obama announced that he would reject the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal on November 6, 2015. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

The Supreme Court late Monday upheld a federal judge's rejection of a crucial permit for Keystone XL and blocked the Trump administration's attempt to greenlight construction of the 1,200-mile crude oil project, the third such blow to the fossil fuel industry in a day—coming just hours after the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the court-ordered shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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More than 200 Indigenous Nations demonstrated against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Canon Ball, ND on Sept. 2, 2016. Joe Brusky / Flickr

A federal judge ruled Monday that the controversial Dakota Access pipeline must be shut down and drained of oil until a full environmental review of the project is completed.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Members of the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative hiked into the George Washington National Forest to document tree felling for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Ben Cunningham / YouTube

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), which would have carried fracked natural gas through 600 miles of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, will never be completed.

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Climate campaigners and Indigenous peoples across Canada have spent the past several years protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline. Mark Klotz / Flickr / cc

By Elana Sulakshana

Rainforest Action Network recently uncovered a document that lists the 11 companies that are currently insuring the controversial Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline in Canada. These global insurance giants are providing more than USD$500 million in coverage for the massive risks of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, and they're also lined up to cover the expansion project.

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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.

The Sumas Pump Station on June 13, 2020, prior to clean-up. Transmountain

Canada's Trans Mountain pipeline spilled as many as 190,000 liters (approximately 50,193 gallons) of crude oil in Abbotsford, British Columbia (BC) Saturday, reinforcing concerns about the safety of the pipeline's planned expansion.

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Greta Thunberg in a video conversation with Swedish professor and joint director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Johan Rockstrom, broadcasted live to a global audience from Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm, Sweden on April 22, 2020. JESSICA GOW / TT News Agency / AFP via Getty Images

When you want a seat on the UN Security Council, the last thing you need is a teenage activist, practiced at the art of shaming government officials, working against you. However, that's just what Norway and Canada have.

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A pipeline being constructed in Pennsylvania. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday mandating federal agencies bypass key environmental reviews of energy and infrastructure projects.
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The coronavirus adds a new wrinkle to the debate over the practice of eminent domain as companies continue to work through the pandemic, vexing landowners. Patrick J. Endres / Getty Images

By Jeremy Deaton

Pipeline giant Kinder Morgan is cutting a 400-mile line across the middle of Texas, digging up vast swaths of private land for its planned Permian Highway Pipeline. The project is ceaseless, continuing through the coronavirus pandemic. Landowner Heath Frantzen said that dozens of workers have showed up to his ranch in Fredericksburg, even as public health officials urged people to stay at home.

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Workers clean up a crude oil leak from a pipeline in Minnesota in 2002. JOEY MCLEISTER / Star Tribune via Getty Images

The Trump administration has finalized a rule making it harder for states and tribal communities to block pipelines and other infrastructure projects that threaten waterways.

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Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage in Edmonton on Friday, April 24, 2020. Chris Schwarz / Government of Alberta / Flickr

Anti-pipeline protests work.

That's the implication behind comments made by Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage Friday on how coronavirus social distancing requirements could ease the construction of Canada's controversial Trans Mountain Expansion project.

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