The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated the U.S. Forest Service’s federal approval for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross two national forests and the Appalachian Trail. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a 600 mile-long $7 billion dollar project proposed to run from West Virginia, through Virginia and North Carolina.   

“The George Washington National Forest, Monongahela National Forest and the Appalachian Trail are national treasures,” said Southern Environmental Law Center Attorney Patrick Hunter. “The Administration was far too eager to trade them away for a pipeline conceived to deliver profit to its developers, not gas to consumers.  This pipeline is unnecessary and asking fracked gas customers to pay developers to blast this boondoggle through our public lands only adds insult to injury,” 

The Court’s ruling yesterday found the Forest Service approval fell short of federal requirements. The Forest Service failed to take a hard look at environmental impacts of the project from risks of landslide and erosion and ignored its obligation to consider routes that avoid national forests entirely.   

The Court also ruled that the Forest Service cannot authorize the ACP to cross the Appalachian Trail which is part of the National Park System.  Congress has rightfully given national parks priority protection from harmful projects like fracked gas pipelines. In its decision the Court said, “A thorough review of the record leads to the necessary conclusion that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources.”

“The Fourth Circuit has made clear what everyone but the polluting corporations behind the pipeline already knew; ACP failed to show it is possible to build this pipeline without causing massive landslides that threaten pristine forests and clean water,” said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Nathan Matthews. “This decision reinforces that the tide has turned against fracked gas pipelines. These dirty and destructive projects are no longer a done deal. It’s simple, there is no right way to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – or any fracked gas pipeline. For the sake of our health, climate, communities, and its own ratepayers, Dominion should abandon this dirty, dangerous project once and for all.”

Several other federal permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are in question and a case is pending challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s certification of the entire project.