Last week the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to favor the notion that the federal government had authority to grant a right of way for the proposed $7.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross under the Appalachian Trail in rural Virginia.
Construction on the 965-km natural gas pipeline which would run from West Virginia to North Carolina had previously been halted by a lower court ruling.
Dominion Energy, an American power and energy company based in Richmond, Virginia leads a consortium of companies seeking to complete the long delayed project. In fairness to Dominion, the company has spent three years of extensive study and engagement with landowners and communities—all with the goal of finding the best route with the least possible impact on landowners and the environment. More than 10,000-km of potential routes have been carefully studied before the present 965-km route was selected.
These efforts, coupled with numerous examples of historical precedent favoring Dominion, have placed the majority of justices indicating sympathy for the Dominion position. 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 through protected National Park Service Land.
Questions asked by several justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, suggested the court will overturn the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found in its 2018 decision that the Forest Service lacked the authority to grant a right of way for the pipeline. A ruling is due by the end of June.