Fourth Circuit Vacates Atlantic Coast Pipeline Permit

On December 13, 2018, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion vacating an environmental permit which was needed to construct the 604-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Forest Service initially planned to route the pipeline through a section of land spanning two national forests in Augusta and Nelson Counties. The Fourth Circuit held that the Forest Service violated both the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act when it sped up timelines in order to coincide with Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers’ deadlines. The court also ruled that the Forest Service did not have the authority to approve of the pipeline’s planned crossing of the Appalachian Trail in these areas. Referencing Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax,” the panel found that the Forest Service had failed to “speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” Work on the pipeline has been at a standstill since late 2018.

– Alison Wrynn, Laura Hoey, Mark Short

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