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Supreme Court agrees to hear Atlantic Coast Pipeline case

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Atlantic Coast PipelineThe U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review a lower court decision, which revoked a U.S. Forest Service permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The ruling by the 4th Circuit Court stated the Forest Service lacked authority to grant approval to Dominion and Duke Energy to cross the Appalachian Trail.

Since construction on the ACP began last year, seven crucial permits have been vacated, resulting in a halt to construction since December.

In response to the decision the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Sierra Club have issued the following joint statement:

“We will defend the lower court’s decision in this case. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a dangerous, costly, and unnecessary project and we won’t stand by while Duke and Dominion Energy try to force it on our public lands, threatening people’s health, endangered species, iconic landscapes, and clean water along the way.”

“We welcome the opportunity for the Supreme County to hear just how unlawful and destructive this pipeline would be,” Nancy Sorrells, the Augusta County Coordinator with the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley, said. “If Dominion is forced to obey the law and respect the land and the people who would be impacted, then this pipeline project is not viable. Their problems are entirely self-inflicted. Dominion drew an inappropriate route and then tried to outmaneuver the law to make it work. Now they are being called out for their actions and their project is in great peril. This is a last-ditch effort for a project that is clearly in jeopardy,” she added.

Sorrells pointed out that the ACP now lacks seven important permits needed to begin construction. Additionally, because of the shortcuts and legal maneuvering that Dominion has pursued, the project is now two years behind schedule and several billion dollars over budget, she noted.

“Because of the number of missing permits and the legal cases that are still pending, construction on the project should be halted until all of the ACP’s permitting issues are resolved. This is the way it would play out for an average citizen like you and me and that is the way it should play out for Dominion,” Sorrells added.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline spokesperson Aaron Ruby offered the following comment:

“The Supreme Court’s acceptance of our petition is a very encouraging sign and provides a clear path forward to resolve this important issue. The law and the facts are on our side, and we’re supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders. 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 our Appalachian Trail crossing.

“More than 50 other pipelines cross underneath 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. In fact, 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.

“We look forward to making our case before the Supreme Court early next year and expect a final ruling by next June. We are confident in our arguments, and those of the Solicitor General, 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. We remain confident we can resolve the ACP’s other permitting issues to enable resumption of partial construction in a timely manner. A favorable resolution of the Appalachian Trail case will allow us to resume full construction by next summer and complete the project by late 2021.

“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is more important now than ever. The economic vitality, environmental health and energy security of our region depend on it. 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. We remain committed to this project and are confident it will be completed.”

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