The Supreme Court will consider reinstating a permit that was tossed out by a lower court for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. That permit would allow construction of the ACP through two national forests, including parts of the Appalachian Trail.

The justices said on Friday they will hear appeals filed by Dominion and Duke Energy companies that want to build the 605-mile project. The federal appeals court in Richmond ruled back in December that the U.S. Forest Service doesn't have the power to authorize the crossing of the popular trail.

A group fighting to block construction of the project and Dominion Energy both say they look forward to presenting arguments in the spring before the high court.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court will consider reinstating a permit that was tossed out by a lower court that would allow construction of a natural gas pipeline through two national forests, including parts of the Appalachian Trail.

The justices said Friday they will hear appeals filed by energy companies that want to build the 605-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Trump administration, which initially approved the project.

The federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, ruled in December that the U.S. Forest Service has no power to authorize the crossing of the popular trail and had "abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources" when it approved the pipeline crossing the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests, as well as a right-of-way across the Appalachian Trail.

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Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley Press Release:

For more than five years the citizens of West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina have been saying that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is a destructive and unneeded project that puts corporate greed ahead of the rights and well-being of the people. Dominion and its partner Duke Energy have not only ignored those concerns, they have tried to play by their own special set of rules.

Now we get to take our arguments against the ACP to the highest court in the land. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court said that it would hear testimony by Dominion regarding its appeal of the federal court decision that ruled that the Forest Service did not have authority to allow the ACP to cross the Appalachian Trail on the Augusta-Nelson county line.

“We welcome the opportunity for the Supreme County to hear just how unlawful and destructive this pipeline would be,” Nancy Sorrells, the Augusta County Coordinator with the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley, said. “If Dominion is forced to obey the law and respect the land and the people who would be impacted, then this pipeline project is not viable. Their problems are entirely self-inflicted. Dominion drew an inappropriate route and then tried to outmaneuver the law to make it work. Now they are being called out for their actions and their project is in great peril. This is a last-ditch effort for a project that is clearly in jeopardy,” she added.

Sorrells pointed out that the ACP now lacks seven important permits needed to begin construction. Additionally, because of the shortcuts and legal maneuvering that Dominion has pursued, the project is now two years behind schedule and several billion dollars over budget, she noted.

“Because of the number of missing permits and the legal cases that are still pending, construction on the project should be halted until all of the ACP’s permitting issues are resolved. This is the way it would play out for an average citizen like you and me and that is the way it should play out for Dominion,” Sorrells added.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the arguments on both sides of the case in the spring. The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) in Charlottesville, Va., will be representing Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley and other clients. Reporters needing additional information about the legal aspects of the case should contact Claudine McElwain at SELC (434.977.4090).

The following is a statement by Atlantic Coast Pipeline spokesperson Aaron Ruby in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to grant certiorari in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s appeal of the Appalachian Trail case:

The Supreme Court’s acceptance of our petition is a very encouraging sign and provides a clear path forward to resolve this important issue. The law and the facts are on our side, and we’re supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders. The U.S. Solicitor General, 16 state Attorneys General and more than a dozen industry and labor organizations all agree that the U.S. Forest Service has the authority to approve our Appalachian Trail crossing.

More than 50 other pipelines cross underneath the Appalachian Trail without disturbing its public use. The public interest requires a clear process for the issuance and renewal of permits for such pipelines, and other essential infrastructure. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline should be no different. In fact, the pipeline will be installed more than 600 feet below the surface and more than a half-mile from each side of the Trail to avoid any impacts.

We look forward to making our case before the Supreme Court early next year and expect a final ruling by next June. We are confident in our arguments, and those of the Solicitor General, and are hopeful the Supreme Court will overturn the Fourth Circuit’s decision and uphold the longstanding precedent allowing pipeline crossings of the Appalachian Trail. We remain confident we can resolve the ACP’s other permitting issues to enable resumption of partial construction in a timely manner. A favorable resolution of the Appalachian Trail case will allow us to resume full construction by next summer and complete the project by late 2021.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is more important now than ever. The economic vitality, environmental health and energy security of our region depend on it. Communities across Hampton Roads, Virginia and eastern North Carolina are experiencing chronic shortages of natural gas. The region urgently needs new infrastructure to support the U.S. military, manufacturing, home heating and cleaner electricity as we move away from coal. We remain committed to this project and are confident it will be completed.