Washington, DC — Today, the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments about a revoked U.S. Forest Service permit to allow a 600-mile long fracked gas pipeline to bore under the Appalachian Trail—a unit of the national park system—on national forest land.
The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cross two national forests, national park land and steep, forested mountains in the central Appalachians. This is a destructive and unneeded project, and Dominion and Duke Energy’s haste to build has spurred agencies on with rushed timelines and shoddy permits.
Today’s arguments came from the Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, and Virginia Wilderness Committee, and the Sierra Club representing itself and Wild Virginia.
“This case is just one example of the wrong and reckless route that Dominion chose for this pipeline,” said DJ Gerken a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center who argued this case in the lower court. “ACP developers should be playing by the rules, but instead they used political pressure to push a risky project through that, in the end, would harm our public lands and stick utility customers with the bill.”
“The route was a serious problem from the very beginning. Dominion wanted to run a large-diameter gas pipeline across steep mountains, untouched forests, pristine waters like the Cowpasture River, and protected forest and park land. But our landscape—our mountains, rivers, and forest—was never the right the place to do that, and that has been obvious to all of us since 2014,” said Dick Brooks of the Cowpasture River Preservation Association.
Robust new evidence shows that there is dwindling demand for the gas that this pipeline would deliver to the region. Meanwhile, Dominion and Duke shareholders stand to earn a 15% yearly profit on this $8 billion project regardless of whether the gas in the pipeline is truly needed.
People all along the path of this pipeline and Dominion and Duke utility customers in Virginia and North Carolina will pay the price for this reckless project.
“For the past six years, communities have been speaking out against the damage this unnecessary fracked gas pipeline would cause to our health, water, and climate,” said Kelly Martin, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign. “It is a dirty, dangerous project that would endanger communities, harm wildlife, pollute our air, damage water quality, and change the character of our land. Today, our fight against the ACP took us to the Supreme Court, but the fight didn’t start here and it won’t end here.”
People in this region will not only pay for the pipeline with their private property and higher utility bills but also with harm to some of their most important public lands.
“This fracked gas pipeline poses serious environmental and safety risks in its attempt to cut across Appalachia. Simply put, they could not have chosen a worse place to construct this dirty, dangerous pipeline,” said David Sligh, Conservation Director of Wild Virginia. “Families and communities along ACP’s proposed route are there because they have deep connections to the land—my own family has lived in these mountains since the early 1700s. The places threatened are our heritage and our legacy, not just for Virginians but for all Americans.”
“Public lands in the George Washington National Forest are so important to communities in the Shenandoah Valley,” said Nancy Sorrells of the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley. “They give us a place to hike and fish, beautiful vistas, and millions of dollars in recreation revenue. They also give us the bountiful fresh water that farmers and cities alike need every day. The Valley depends on these lands, they are home, and no place for a destructive pipeline.”
Regardless of the outcome of this Supreme Court case, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline faces many unresolved permitting issues stemming from risks and obstacles in the proposed route and dwindling demand for new gas-fired power generation. The project is missing eight required permits, and lawsuits challenging its primary permit from FERC are still in court. Court decisions halted all construction over a year ago, and less than 6% of the total length of the pipeline is in the ground.
About the Southern Environmental Law Center
For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With more than 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.8 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.