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U.S. Supreme Court clears Appalachian Trail obstacle for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday, June 15, the U.S. Forest Service has the authority to grant the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) the ability to cross underneath the Appalachian Trail, removing one of the largest obstacles of the pipeline’s long-delayed construction.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Oct. 4, 2019 to review a federal court ruling which said federal law prohibits an agency’s ability to approve pipeline construction on lands in the national park system.

After the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals made the ruling, Dominion Energy, the largest of four companies backing the ACP project, petitioned the Supreme Court to consider the case.

The ACP is projected to span 600 miles, crossing counties including Prince Edward, Buckingham and Cumberland.

Another vital permit for advancement of the pipeline was vacated by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday, Jan. 7. The permit, originally awarded by the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board (VAPCB), granted permission for construction of a compressor station in Buckingham County to support the transmission of natural gas through the pipeline.

The court vacated the permit after deciding the board erred in failing to consider electric turbines as zero-emission alternatives to gas-fired turbines at the compressor station, as well as erring in assessing the compressor station’s potential for disproportionate negative health impacts on the predominantly black community of Union Hill where the station is anticipated to be located.

In a release Monday afternoon, ACP officials said the company is currently resolving other pending permits “to ensure the ACP resumes construction this year.”

“In its decision today, the Supreme Court upheld the longstanding precedent allowing infrastructure crossings of the Appalachian Trail,” Dominion Energy officials said in a press release Monday. “For decades, more than 50 other pipelines have safely crossed the trail without disturbing its public use. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be no different. To avoid impacts to the trail, the pipeline will be installed hundreds of feet below the surface and emerge more than a half-mile from each side of the trail. There will be no construction activity on or near the trail itself, and the public will be able to continue enjoying the trail as they always have.”

The full ruling can be found at https://www. supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/18-1584_igdj. pdf.