Category Archives: Appalachian Trail

16 State AGs Urge Supreme Court to Take Forest Service Case

The article below is from Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance ABRA Update 239, August 1, 2019. [We note that the effort was led by the West Virginia Attorney General, but only one of the other AGs that signed on is from a state with the AT running through it (Georgia), most of the signers are from fossil fuel energy producing states, and the AGs for states other than West Virginia that are on the proposed ACP route, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, did not sign.]

Sixteen Republican State Attorneys General, led by West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to accept the appeal made by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP, LLC) to overturn the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to vacate the U.S. Forest Service permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail. The ACP, LLC filed its appeal with the Supreme Court on June 25. It was joined in that request by the U.S. Solicitor General. The AGs’ brief, filed July 29, stated as reasons for its support of the ACP appeal:

  • The Fourth Circuit decision was wrong, as it misread the Mineral leasing Act (MLA) and because it undermined the MLA’s goal to balance conservation with energy development;
  • Shuttering construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline harms states on both ends of its route;
  • The decision could severely constrain energy development nationwide; and
  • The decision undermines important interests beyond pipeline development. (On this final point, the brief claims that the decision “could thus disable any federal agency from being able to authorize power lines and telecommunications infrastructure across the Appalachian Trail, as well as other trails that cross forest land.”)

Joining WV Attorney General Morrisey (who is the principal author of the brief) in signing on to the brief were the AGs of Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

Hands Across the Appalachian Trail


SAVE THE DATE!

Saturday, September 28, 2019 at 11 AM – 1 PM, Humpback Rocks Visitor’s Center and Picnic Area, Milepost 5.8, Blue Ridge Parkway, Lyndhurst, VA 22952. Hosted by Sierra Club Virginia Chapter

Join your friends and neighbors at the Fourth Annual Hands Across the Appalachian Trail! Be part of this special weekend of events across the state on Saturday, September 28 and Sunday, September 29, as we work to protect our communities, water, air, land and natural treasures from the threats posed by unneeded and harmful fracked gas pipelines.

The Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines propose to cross several nationally known and highly popular public recreational areas including the George Washington National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Eastern Trail, and – the iconic Appalachian Trail. The dedicated work of volunteers, community groups, allies, legal advocates and individuals has led to Stop Work Orders and further delays of the pipelines, and the efforts to stop these fracked-gas project continues.

The Hands Across the Appalachian Trail events features the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s vision to “connect the human spirit with nature – preserving the delicate majesty of the Trail as a haven for all to enjoy.” Come celebrate the Appalachian Trail, meet others working to protect it and enjoy food, music, and speakers!

The Saturday, September 28 event will take place at:
Humpback Rocks Visitors Center/Augusta County: Humpback Rocks Visitor’s Center and Picnic Area, Milepost 5.8, Blue Ridge Parkway, Lyndhurst, VA 22952

For more information contact:
Jessica Sims:
jessica.sims@sierraclub.org 804-366-0745
We look forward to seeing you on Saturday, September 28!

Other Hands Across the Appalachian Trail events:

Saturday, September 28, 11am-1pm
Giles County/Pearisburg: Route 100 intersection with Appalachian Trail (Trailhead), 2030 Narrows Road, Pearisburg, VA 24134 (Bluff City)

Sunday, September 29, 11am-1pm
Bears Den, 18393 Blue Ridge Mountain Road, Bluemont, VA 20135

What Can You Do?

What can you do while we wait on the courts for hearings and decisions on the several pipeline-related issues? You could:

  • Tell FERC: Stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline to protect Appalachia’s endangered species. In April 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began to evaluate the impacts of sediment pollution from construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on local threatened and endangered species. The agency expressed its concern in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Although the agency’s initial analysis demonstrated that endangered species, including the endemic Roanoke Logperch, are at increased risk, work on the pipeline continues, and the well-being of the logperch, the candy darter, the Indiana bat and more remains under threat. FERC has the authority to stop construction of the MVP to ensure the protection of Appalachia’s biodiversity!  Send a message to FERC via the Appalachian Voices Web page.
  • Tell Congress: Don’t let Dominion convince Congress to sneak in a rider to critical legislation which would allow the pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway! You can print, sign, and mail this letter to Representative Denver Riggleman – or write your own letter and mail it! For another sample letter, and for addresses of Virginia’s Senators and other Congressional representatives, see the Potomac Riverkeeper Network’s page, Help Us Preserve the Appalachian Trail and Shenandoah!

ACP Appeals Forest Service Decision to U.S. Supreme Court

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update 235:

Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP, LLC) on June 25, 2019, filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to review the December 13, 2018 decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that said the U.S. Forest Service lacked the authority to grant a right-of-way for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) to cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Trail). The filing by ACP, LCC of a Writ of Certiorari (appeal to a higher court a lower court’s decision) was accompanied by a similar petition by the U.S. Solicitor General. Both had been anticipated. In its petition to the Court, ACP, LLC argued that:

  • “Several environmental groups challenged the pipeline on numerous grounds, including the novel theory that the Forest Service lacked statutory authority to grant a right-of-way because the entire Trail and the land underneath is National Park System land under the exclusive authority of the National Park Service. Because the MLA does not authorize any federal agency to grant pipeline rights-of-way across National Park System land, the import of this theory was not that the wrong federal agency had granted the right-of-way under the Trail, but that no agency had that power.”
  • “. . .the decision imperils not just the billions of dollars invested in this pipeline, but future projects that will cross under the Trail, the 50-some pipelines that already cross under the Trail that require ongoing regulatory approvals from other state and federal agencies, and potentially other projects (including electrical transmission lines, telecommunications sites, municipal water facilities, roads, and grazing areas) that cross national trails administered by the National Park Service. “In short, the decision below is both profoundly wrong and profoundly important. It misreads federal statutes that make clear that the designation of a trail does not transfer authority over the land being crossed. It will chill investment, harm millions of energy consumers, and unsettle longheld agency views. This decision plainly warrants this Court’s plenary review.”

The Solicitor General’s petition echoes the contentions made in the ACP, LLC petition:

“. . . the court of appeals misread the National Trails System Act, decreeing that long sections of the Appalachian Trail within national forests rest on lands that are rendered part of the National Park System as a result of the presence of the Trail on the surface, and therefore cannot be subject to rights-of-way granted under the Mineral Leasing Act. That ruling threatens to hamper the development of energy infrastructure in the eastern United States, including the construction and operation of the natural gas pipeline at issue in this case.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), which represents the petitioners that brought the original lawsuit before the Fourth Circuit, has 30 days (until July 25) to file a brief with the Court commenting on the ACP, LLC and Solicitor General petitions. The seven petitioners represented by SELC – all members of ABRA – are: Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Shenandoah Valley Network, Sierra Club, Virginia Wilderness Committee and Wild Virginia.

Reuters press coverage of the ACP filing is here.

SELC Comments to Forest Service on AT

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update 235:

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) wrote the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) on June 24 regarding the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ December 18 decision that the USFS lacked the authority to grant a right-of-way for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) to cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST). The SELC letter follows an April 30 communication from USFS to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP, LLC) asking the company if it would like the USFS to “renew is consideration of the right-a-way application for the ACP.” The company responded in the affirmative. The SELC letter points out that:

  • “(1) the Cowpasture decision does not affect the Forest Service’s other management authorities for the ANST;
  • “(2) reasonable off-forest alternatives exist for the ACP to cross the ANST; and
  • “(3) while the Forest Service has never before and cannot now issue a new gas pipeline right-of-way across the ANST, options exist for new pipelines to be built in the eastern United States, and existing pipelines are unaffected by the Cowpasture decision.”

SELC further explains to USFS:

  • “We have examined every existing crossing of the ANST by an oil or gas pipeline and confirmed that the Forest Service has never before granted a new right-of-way for an oil or gas pipeline to cross the ANST where it traverses a national forest, until it did so for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.”
  • “Of the pipelines that do cross the Appalachian Trail on federally-owned land, nearly all existed before the creation of the Appalachian Trail or before the land was acquired by the federal government. The Mineral Leasing Act applies only to the initial grant of a right-of-way or the renewal of temporary rights-of-way for oil and gas pipelines. See 30 U.S.C. § 185(a), (q). Permanent rights-of-way granted before the creation of the ANST as land in the National Park System are unaffected by the Cowpasture decision because they require no new authorization under the Mineral Leasing Act. Similarly, the federal government took ownership subject to any property rights for permanent rights-of-way that existed prior to federal acquisition; such property rights do not require renewal under the Mineral Leasing Act and are unaffected by the Cowpasture decision.”

Sign the Petition


No pipeline across the Appalachian Trail is a no brainer! Sign on to Wild Virginia’s petition to Senators Kain and Warner asking them to oppose any change to the law that would allow destructive natural gas pipelines to cross the Appalachian Trail on our precious federal lands. Dominion Energy wants a special favor from Congress, allowing it to mar our important scenic areas for its profit.