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Environmentalists: Supreme Court Pipeline Ruling a “Disaster”

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The Supreme Court paved the way for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. (Wikimedia Commons)
The Supreme Court paved the way for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. (Wikimedia Commons)
June 16, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Just after the Supreme Court released its ruling on LGBTQ rights on Monday, the high court announced another decision that has alarmed climate activists. Environmentalists say the decision to uphold a permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to run under a section of the Appalachian Trail is a blow to the ecosystem.

The justices ruled 7-2 that a lower court overstepped when it canceled the permit, halting work on the project that will run fracked natural gas through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Kelly Martin, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Initiative, said the move will upset habitats on the iconic trail and represents a step backwards from a national trend of decreasing reliance on fossil fuels.

"This is really an environmental disaster at a time when we need to be doing all we can to reverse the course we're on toward disastrous climate change," Martin said. "This is an absolutely unnecessary and unneeded project."

West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice praised the decision, applauding pipeline backers Dominion and Duke Energy. He said continuing the pipeline construction will bring "thousands of jobs and countless opportunities for our hard-working West Virginians."

The estimated $8 billion price tag for the project continues to climb because of Dominion's insistence on a risky route, environmentalists say. Jim Kotcon, political chair of the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, said the pipeline will create significant risk of slips and landslides because it will be built on steep and unstable slopes.

"There's concerns that if landslides happen, this could cause the pipeline to rupture. And it's a very high-pressure, high-volume gas pipeline, so that'd be a very large explosion," Kotcon said. "I think it's a significant safety issue."

He said even though the court decision is significant, it doesn't determine the ultimate fate of the pipeline. The project still needs about eight more permits. This includes an air pollution permit from Virginia regulators for a controversial compressor station in Union Hill, a historically black community.

More from the Sierra Club on the ruling is available at SierraClub.org.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, West Virginia Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV