The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a critical infrastructure project jointly developed by Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and Southern Company that would bring much-needed natural gas supplies to the Southeast, as well as economic growth in rural areas of the region.
Late last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated the U.S. Forest Service’s Special Use Permit and Record of Decision for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross beneath the Appalachian Trail.
Today the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s appeal of the Appalachian Trail decision.
If the Court of Appeals decision is allowed to stand, it would severely harm consumers and do great damage to the economy and the nation’s energy security. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would provide significant benefits to customers, including access to a lower-cost natural gas supply, increased supplier diversity, improved natural gas transmission infrastructure, increased operational flexibility and system reliability.
The court’s ruling was at odds with the consensus of the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service. All of these agencies agree that the Forest Service has full legal authority to approve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s crossing of the Appalachian Trail. Under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, for decades 56 other oil and gas pipelines have operated across the Appalachian Trail without disturbing its public use. The public interest requires a clear process for the issuance and renewal of permits for such pipelines and other essential infrastructure. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline should be no different.
The Supreme Court’s acceptance of the petition is an encouraging sign and provides a clear path forward to resolve this important issue. The U.S. Solicitor General, 16 state Attorneys General and more than a dozen industry and labor organizations all agree that the U.S. Forest Service has the authority to approve the Appalachian Trail crossing.
The case will appear before the Supreme Court in early 2020 and a final ruling is expected by June 2020. The project developers are confident in the overall arguments and are hopeful the Supreme Court will overturn the Fourth Circuit’s decision and uphold the longstanding precedent allowing pipeline crossings of the Appalachian Trail. The pipeline will be installed more than 600 feet below the surface and more than a half-mile from each side of the Trail to avoid any impacts. A favorable resolution of the Appalachian Trail case should keep the project on schedule to be completed by late 2021.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile line that will transport natural gas from West Virginia to where it’s needed in Virginia and eastern North Carolina, is more important now than ever. Communities across Hampton Roads, Virginia and eastern North Carolina are experiencing chronic shortages of natural gas. The region urgently needs new infrastructure to support the U.S. military, manufacturing, home heating and cleaner electricity as we move away from coal generation.