The Fourth Circuit U. S. Court of Appeals issued a stay September 24 with regard to Special Use Permits issued by the National Forest Service for construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through forest service lands in the Monongahela and George Washington National forests.
The stay was granted in response to a filing from several environmental groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates. Those groups include Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Friends of Buckingham, Piedmont Environmental Council, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Shenandoah Valley Network, Sound Rivers, Inc., Virginia Wilderness Committee and Winyah Rivers Foundation, Inc.
The stay will remain in effect while the court hears arguments in the case, and makes a final decision on the matter.
The following is a statement from ACP spokesperson Aaron Ruby in response to the court’s ruling and its impact on work along the entire route of the pipeline:
While we respectfully disagree with the Court’s ruling, it will not have a significant impact on our construction schedule. The Forest Service’s approval impacts only 20 miles of the 600-mile route, or roughly three percent of the total project. This includes four miles through the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. We are evaluating our work schedule considering the limitations from this stay and impending winter weather. We will continue working in all other areas of West Virginia and North Carolina, where we are making significant progress.
We fully stand behind the Forest Service’s approval, and we will vigorously defend it in oral arguments before the court later this week. The Forest Service conducted a thorough and rigorous review of the project for more than three years and built a strong public record in support of its decision.
Make no mistake, we will complete this project for the good of our economy and the environment. Public utilities are depending on this infrastructure to generate cleaner electricity and meet the growing energy needs of millions of homes and businesses. Opponents’ delay tactics will not stop this project. They will only drive up consumer energy costs, delay the transition to cleaner energy, and make it harder for public utilities to reliably serve their customers.
The Atlantic Coast Pipe-line has been the most thoroughly reviewed infrastructure project in the history of our region. No other project in our region’s history has been developed with greater attention to the environment, including our national forests. After hearing input from agencies and communities, we changed the pipeline’s route by almost 100 miles to avoid sensitive wildlife habitats in the forests and reduce the total mileage in the forests by more than one-third. In close consultation with the Forest Service, we also developed one of the strongest and most protective programs for steep slope construction ever used by the industry. The additional scrutiny we’re now receiving from the courts is only further evidence of the incredibly high standard that is being applied to this project.