From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update #257, December 19, 2019:
Efforts by Dominion Energy to convince Congress to approve having the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail have not yielded results. For most of the past year Dominion has been seeking to have a rider added to other legislation that would, in effect, overturn the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that vacated the permit for the ACP issued by the U.S. Forest Service. Within the past week, two prominent bills that were believed to be possible vehicles for the Dominion amendment – the National Defense Authorization Act and the continuing resolution funding the Federal Government –passed without language addressing the AT issue. For now, the issue remains pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear arguments on an appeal of the Fourth Circuit decision on the case (U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, et. al.) on February 24. A decision on the case is anticipated to be announced in June.
From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update #255 for December 5, 2019:
The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that the appeal of the case vacating the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s (ACP) permit from the U.S. Forest Service to build across Forest Service land is scheduled for oral argument on Monday, February 24, 2020 at 10 am. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the permit in a December 18, 2018 decision on the grounds that the Forest Service 1) was negligent in its analysis of environmental impacts on Forest lands, and 2) did not have the legal authority to grant permission for the project to cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
The appellants in the case – Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC and the U.S. Forest Service – filed their briefs with the Court on December 2. Amicus briefs in support of the appellants are due to be filed by December 9.
The respondents in the case, all members of ABRA, are Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Highlands for Responsible Development, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Shenandoah Valley Network, Sierra Club, Virginia Wilderness Committee and Wild Virginia. Their brief must be filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) by January 15, 2020. Amicus briefs in support of the respondents’ position are due January 22.
For a copy of the brief filed by ACP, LLC, click here. For the Forest Service brief, click here.
An action alert from David Sligh, Wild Virginia’s Conservation Director:
We’ve just received word that a special deal may soon be attached to a bill in Congress to allow Dominion to change the rules in their favor so they can fast track the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. We need your help today to send a strong message to our elected representatives. We need them to know to watch for tricks like this from Dominion and to be ready to vote in opposition to any legislation like this.
The time is NOW to contact your senators and representative in Congress today and urge them to oppose any legislation that makes way for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Don’t know your senators or representative? No problem! Find out here.
Note: We don’t currently have a bill number or specific information about the measure that is circulating in Congress but don’t let that deter you from making the contacts. Time could be of the essence and you shouldn’t wait – it is important that our legislators be looking for these attempts whenever they arise and act quickly.
The proposed route for Dominion’s 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been a mess from the beginning. It carves through family farms, steep mountain ridges, and public water supplies, and it is slated to cross the Appalachian Trail on U.S. Forest Service land, a move that federal judges say is not legal. Rather than reconsider their poorly-planned project, Dominion is asking the U.S. Congress to change laws to make way for its unneeded gas pipeline.
We will oppose Dominion’s efforts and call on you to do the same – TODAY! Tell your senators and your representative in Congress that you oppose legislation that would change the rules to make way for Dominion’s unneeded and destructive pipeline.
Thank you again for stepping up and taking action to protect the mountain streams, family farms, private property, water supplies, and Appalachian Trail.
The Southern Environmental Law Center filed an opposition brief in the US Supreme Court on August 28, 2019, arguing that the Court should not agree to review the Fourth Circuit opinion as requested by the petitioners, US Forest Service and Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Fourth Circuit decision blocked the ACP from coming across Reid’s Gap.
The question is “Whether the United States Forest Service has statutory authority under the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a gas pipeline right-of-way across the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.”
The brief discusses the Mineral Leasing Act, and argues that:
- This case is not a suitable vehicle to address the question presented because petitioners seek review of just one of the Fourth Circuit’s four independent bases for its judgment, and the decision does not conflict with other Circuits
- The question presented does not warrant review because it does not present an issue of national importance, since the ACP and other pipelines can still cross the Appalachian Trail, and other Forest Service authorities and rights of way are unaffected
- The Fourth Circuit’s decision is correct and supported by the record, namely that the entire Appalachian Trail is a unit of the National Park System, the Mineral Leasing Act excludes all federal land in the National Park System owned by any federal agency, the ACP argument that the Appalachian Trail is merely a “Footpath” or “Right-of-Way” has no legal basis, and the Park Service administers the entire Appalachian Trail
Read the full brief here.
The U.S. Forest Service has announced that it will extend the comment period to receive input from the public on the agency’s proposed rule to amend environmental review procedures of projects on Forest Service lands. The new comment deadline is Monday August 26, 2019. The previous comment deadline had been Monday, August 12.
The proposed rule change would effectively eliminate for most projects the opportunity for public input. The Forest Service is presenting the new rules as “simplifying” their processes, but what it really means is that the Forest Service could do what it wants when it wants, without public oversight or input.
Additional background is in our August 8 post, Urgent Appeal from the Outdoor Alliance.
Please use the Outdoor Alliance Web page and call to action at ourforestsourvoice.org to submit your comments and let your voice be heard!
The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to eliminate virtually all public comment on how they manage OUR national forests. This could serve as precedent for other federal agencies and effectively gut the National Environmental Policy Act. We have until August 12 to tell them this is not acceptable. Please go to the Outdoor Alliance’s urgent call to action at ourforestsourvoice.org and let your voice be heard.
Writing in a New York Times opinion piece on August 7, 2019, Sam Evans of the Southern Environmental Law Center says, “The United States Forest Service’s most important job is balancing the many needs and uses of the 193 million acres of public land it manages. But the Trump administration is preparing to abandon the process that makes it possible, eliminating public participation from the overwhelming majority of decisions affecting our national forests. If the Forest Service has its way, visitors won’t know what’s coming until logging trucks show up at their favorite trailheads or a path for a gas pipeline is cleared below a scenic vista. …. Far too often, the Forest Service proposes logging in rare old-growth forests, near sensitive streams, or on steep, fragile slopes. Or it proposes building new roads or permitting pipelines in undeveloped backcountry areas. Under current law, new roads and all but the smallest and least consequential timber sales require, at a minimum, advance public notice and the opportunity for the public to comment and suggest improvements. Most of the time, bad projects are relocated or improved because of public input.”
If this proposal goes through, new clear-cutting and logging projects up to 6.6 square miles in size, pipelines, and massive road-building projects could proceed in the dark – without the input of neighboring landowners, without expert scientific input, and without the input of people who love to hike, fish, hunt, ride horses, paddle and bike throughout the entire 193 million acres of national forests.
Say NO today!