A US appeals court has refused to reconsider its judgment in December 2018 on the $7bn Atlantic Coast Pipeline in which it ruled that the US Forest Service "lacked authority" to give approval for the pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail.
The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit also ruled that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Forest Service did not consider routes that would avoid the National Forest.
Upon its commissioning, the underground natural gas transmission pipeline will deliver new supplies of natural gas produced in West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina.
Sierra Club senior attorney Nathan Matthews said: “The Fourth Circuit has once again made it clear what everyone but the corporate polluters behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline already know: it is impossible to construct this fracked gas project without causing massive landslides and threatening the Appalachian Trail and our clean water.
“Any proposal to threaten our communities, our clean water, and our national parks and public lands simply cannot ever be permitted.”
Dominion Energy, which holds a stake of 48% in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, revealed its plans to appeal against the Fourth Circuit’s judgment to the Supreme Court in the next 90 days. The Virginia-based utility said that it is also proceeding with legislative and administrative options for the pipeline project.
Dominion Energy, in a statement, said: “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.”
The company will look to resolve pending biological opinion issue and also any impediments related to the pipeline’s crossing of the Appalachian Trail. If successful in these, Dominion Energy expects at least partial construction to restart in the third quarter of this year.
Dominion Energy is partnered by Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.
In November 2018, the US Army Corps of Engineers suspended key permits pertaining to the construction of the pipeline project.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is planned to start in West Virginia, stretch through Virginia with a lateral extending to Chesapeake and then extend southwards into eastern North Carolina before ending in Robeson County.