This morning the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated the Forest Service’s special use permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Monongahela National Forest, the George Washington National Forest, and Appalachian Trail. The court found that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, and did not have authority under the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a right-of-way across the Appalachian Trail.
We trust the United States Forest Service to “speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” Dr. Seuss, The Lorax (1971). A thorough review of the record leads to the necessary conclusion that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources. This conclusion is particularly informed by the Forest Service’s serious environmental concerns that were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines. Accordingly, for the reasons set forth herein, we grant the petition to review the Forest Service’s Record of Decision and Special Use Permit, vacate the Forest Service’s decisions, and remand to the Forest Service for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
We’re still working through what this means for Dominion and what our next steps are. Stay tuned!