The U.S. Supreme Court Monday began hearing arguments that will determine the fate of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), the $8 billion natural gas line that would flow Marcellus Shale Play gas from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina.
A December 2019, ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the U.S. Forest Service didn’t have the power to grant the 600-mile pipeline’s primary developer, Dominion Energy a permit to cross the Appalachian Trail, Kallanish Energy finds.
Chief Justice John Roberts appeared to back the permit in oral arguments at the court Monday, claiming a ruling in favor of environmental groups would create an “impermeable barrier” along the 2,200-mile-long historic hiking route, Bloomberg reported.
The Appalachian Trail extends down the East Coast from Maine to Georgia. It’s situated on federal land and is a unit of the National Park Service.
Construction was to start mid-year
Construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was scheduled to begin in mid-2020, with completion set for the end of 2021. The line is designed to flow 1.5 billion cubic feet per day of gas, originating in West Virginia, traveling through Virginia with a lateral extending to Chesapeake, Virginia, and then continuing south into eastern North Carolina, ending in Robeson County.
Two additional, shorter laterals will connect to two Dominion Energy electric generating facilities in Brunswick and Greensville counties.
The ACP is being developed by Dominion, Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas. Southern Company Gas was an original investor, but pulled out of the project last week. As the highest percentage owner of the project, Dominion is responsible for constructing and operating the line.
0.1-mile pipeline segment
Lawyers for Dominion and U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued in legal briefs the U.S. Forest Service has jurisdiction over land in the George Washington National Forest, where a 0.1-mile segment of the pipeline would cross roughly 700 feet beneath the Appalachian Trail, Fox News reported.
But the Sierra Club and other environmental groups claim because the Appalachian Trail is part of the National Park System, no federal agency can grant a right-of-way for the pipeline. Only Congress can approve such a crossing, they argue.
On Monday, U.S. government lawyers argued the Appalachian Trail route is separate from the land it crosses, warning a ruling in favor of the environmental groups could bear “unintended consequences,” Fox News reported.
The environmental groups countered, saying the pipeline project could be authorized on private of state land – but not on federal parkland, KYTX reported. The Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision on the case in coming months, KYTX reported.
This post appeared first on Kallanish Energy News.