U.S. Supreme Court clears way for pipeline to cross Appalachian Trail

Ruling against environmentalists, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the federal government has the authority to allow a proposed $7.5 billion natural gas pipeline to cross under the popular Appalachian Trail in rural Virginia.

The 7-2 ruling was a victory for Dominion Energy Inc. and the Trump administration, both of which appealed a lower court ruling that halted construction of the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would run from West Virginia to North Carolina.

Environmental groups including the Sierra Club and Southern Environmental Law Center had sued to stop the pipeline after the U.S. Forest Service gave the green light for the project to run through the George Washington National Forest. After a protracted application process involving multiple federal agencies, the Forest Service granted the right of way under the trail in 2018.

The Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found in 2018 that the Forest Service lacked the authority to grant a right of way for the pipeline where it crosses the Appalachian Trail in the national forest land because the trail was overseen by the National Park Service. The Supreme Court overruled that decision.

The Supreme Court’s ruling will also affect the proposed 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would run from West Virginia to southern Virginia and crosses the trail in the Jefferson National Forest.

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