The Appalachian Trail is a Significant National Asset

by Duane Nichols on September 27, 2019

Are you gonna stand up for justice and the earth?

Can the Appalachian Trail Block a Natural Gas Pipeline?

From an Article by Noah Sachs, American Prospect, August 14, 2019

The question of the trail’s ownership looms large in a case that may be headed to the Supreme Court. The answer could determine the fate of natural gas megaprojects on the East Coast.

Protesters gather at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Harrisonburg office to speak out against the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.

Hiking north on the Appalachian Trail from Reeds Gap in Virginia, my teenage daughter and I come to a clearing. We’re at the Three Ridges Overlook, taking in the view of the Rockfish River Valley undulating to the east. Piney Mountain, blanketed in a green canopy of oaks and poplars, stares back at us from across the divide. This tranquil section of the iconic trail is the subject of a four-year legal battle that landed in June at the Supreme Court. It’s the spot where Dominion Energy wants to route the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), a $7.5 billion, 600-mile, 42-inch-diameter pipe that will carry fracked natural gas from the depths of the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia. The pipeline would run up and over several mountain ranges to the Virginia coast and to eastern North Carolina.

The stakes are high. The lawsuit over this section of the Appalachian Trail could determine the fate of some of the largest natural gas deposits in North America. In a landmark decision last December, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond axed the project—for now. That court found that the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine is part of the National Park System, blocking federal agencies from authorizing a pipeline crossing. The astonishing decision upended the U.S. natural gas industry and also jeopardizes other pipeline projects with proposed routes across the trail.

Whether the pipeline construction ever goes forward ultimately hinges on the question of who has authority over the Appalachian Trail. If the Supreme Court declines to hear Cowpasture River Preservation Association v. U.S. Forest Service (an announcement is expected this fall), then the Fourth Circuit decision will stand, and the ACP will likely be doomed unless it gets a congressional exemption or Dominion chooses a costly new route. Both Dominion and the Trump administration petitioned the high court to hear the case, with Dominion charging that the Fourth Circuit turned the trail into “an impregnable barrier” that locks up abundant natural gas in the Midwest. (Full disclosure: I’m on the board of an environmental group, Virginia Conservation Network, that has opposed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but VCN is not a party to any of the pipeline litigation.)

Yet an even more fundamental problem posed by this latest generation of pipeline projects is not the exact point where they cross the Appalachian Trail, but whether they should be built at all. Once these investments in fossil fuel infrastructure are made, developers have every incentive to use the pipelines for their whole useful life (about 80 years), which would throw greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and exacerbate the climate crisis.

See the complete article here:

Can the Appalachian Trail Block a Natural Gas Pipeline? - The American Prospect, August 14, 2019

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