Pipeline Builder Plans Supreme Court Appeal In Permit Dispute

Feb 26, 2019

Dominion Energy says it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after a lower court declined to reconsider throwing out a permit allowing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross two national forests, including parts of the Appalachian Trail.

Credit Atlantic Coast Pipeline

In a statement Tuesday, lead pipeline developer Dominion said it expects to file the appeal in the next 90 days.

On Monday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request by Dominion and the U.S. Forest Service for a hearing by the full court.

A three-judge panel ruled in December that the Forest Service lacks the authority to authorize the trail crossing and had "abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources."

The 600-mile natural gas pipeline would originate in West Virginia and run through North Carolina and Virginia.

[Related Content: Atlantic Coast Pipeline Delayed, Cost Rises To $7.5B]

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Sierra Club, Virginia Wilderness Committee and other environmental groups.

Representatives for Dominion Energy and the Forest Service declined immediate comment Monday.

After the ruling in December, Dominion Energy spokesman Aaron Ruby said the court's ruling was "at odds" with the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.

"All of these agencies agree that the Forest Service has the full legal authority to approve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline's crossing of the Appalachian Trail," Ruby said.

In Tuesday morning's statement, Dominion said it's also "pursuing legislative and administrative options and still expects construction — which had been halted by the 4th Circuit rulings — to resume later this year.

"We are confident that the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture have the authority to resolve the Appalachian Trail crossing issue administratively in a manner that satisfies the Court’s stated objection and in a timeframe consistent with a restart of at least partial construction during the third quarter," Dominion said. " We will continue to work to resolve the outstanding biological opinion issue as well as the Appalachian Trail issue and continue to believe, as a result, that at least partial construction will recommence in the third quarter of 2019."

In a joint statement Monday, the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Sierra Club said the 4th Circuit's denial of a new hearing "sends the Atlantic Coast Pipeline back to the drawing board."

The groups said they believe it is impossible to build the pipeline "without causing massive landslides and threatening the Appalachian Trail and our clean water."

Dominion is the lead owner of the pipeline, whose partners also include Duke Energy. 

WFAE's David Boraks contributed to this report.