Home Dominion Power By 7-2 Margin, Supreme Court Reverses Lower Court Decision re: Dominion’s $8...

By 7-2 Margin, Supreme Court Reverses Lower Court Decision re: Dominion’s $8 Billion, Fracked-Gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline Traversing the Appalachian Trail


I’m glad to see this Supreme Court ruling (“An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII”), of course, but…another decision issued this morning (see below) reminds us that this right-wing, Roberts/Kavanaugh/etc. Supreme Court really is NOT our friend. It begins with words that progressives and environmentalists *never* want to hear: “JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court.” Shuddderrrr. It then proceeds:

“We granted certiorari in these consolidated cases to decide whether the United States Forest Service has authority under the Mineral Leasing Act, 30 U. S. C. §181 et seq., to grant rights-of-way through lands within national forests traversed by the Appalachian Trail. 588 U. S. ___ (2019). We hold that the Mineral Leasing Act does grant the Forest Service that authority and therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.”

Here’s a bit more background:

“In 2015, petitioner Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic) filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to construct and operate an approximately 604-mile natural gas pipeline extending from West Virginia to North Carolina. The pipeline’s proposed route traverses 16 miles of land within the George Washington National Forest. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Appalachian Trail or Trail) also crosses parts of the George Washington National Forest.

To construct the pipeline, Atlantic needed to obtain special use permits from the United States Forest Service for the portions of the pipeline that would pass through lands under the Forest Service’s jurisdiction. In 2018, the Forest Service issued these permits and granted a right-of-way that would allow Atlantic to place a 0.1-mile segment of pipe approximately 600 feet below the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest.”


The Fourth Circuit vacated the Forest Service’s special use permit after holding that the Leasing Act did not empower the Forest Service to grant the pipeline right-of-way beneath the Trail. As relevant here, the court concluded that the Appalachian Trail had become part of the National Park System because, though originally charged with the Trail’s administration…Because it concluded the Trail was now within the National Park System, the court held that the Trail was beyond the authority of ‘the Secretary of the Interior or appropriate agency head’ to grant pipeline rights-of-way under the Leasing Act.”

So now, the Supreme Court – after hearing arguments in this case back in February 2020 – has reversed the Fourth Circuit, on a 7-2 vote, finding that “the Mineral Leasing Act does grant the Forest Service that authority.” Does this mean that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is “all systems go?” Fortunately, it doesn’t; as Virginia attorney Jon Sokolow, who is a leading activist against this pipeline, writes, “Dominion lacks at least 7 permits needed for construction and is under a stop work order that will largely be unaffected by this ruling.” Still, prepare for a celebratory press release by Dominion Energy in 5…4…3…2…

Oh, and just remember, not just the Supreme Court, but the entire court system in this country, is at stake this November. Do you care about clean water? clean air? a habitable planet? Then make sure you vote Democratic, up and down the ballot, this November (and the next November and the next and for many Novembers to come), because if Republicans maintain control of the White House and U.S. Senate, the assault on our environment’s only going to get worse and worse.

P.S. For more background on why the ACP makes no sense whatsoever, see: The Atlantic Coast Pipeline Is a Bad Investment: Time to End It for Good, Going, Going, GONE: The Disappearing Rationale For The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, STILL Confused Why Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines Must Be Stopped? New Paper Explains Why We Need to Cancel All New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure. Immediately., Two Numbers: Atlantic Coast Pipeline Would More than Double Dominion Energy Virginia’s Current Carbon Pollution, etc. Also note that, with the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) kicking in soon, there’s really no good reason for Dominion to need more natural gas going forward. Unfortunately, that’s not clear enough to these guys, so in the 2021 Virginia General Assembly session, it’s time to strengthen VCEA, with as aggressive – and mandatory -a phaseout of fossil fuel infrastructure as can be passed through the legislature.


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