A federal court made a significant environmental ruling and used the wisdom of Dr. Seuss to do it. The court vacated an environmental permit that would have allowed The Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross two national forests, according to a court opinion filed Thursday with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The opinion of the court used a quote from Seuss’ “The Lorax,” saying: “We trust the United States Forest Service to ‘speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.’ ” A review of the permit records led the court to decide 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,” the opinion reads.
The court also granted a 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 the new opinion.
“We strongly disagree with the court’s ruling,” said Aaron Ruby in a press release for Dominion Energy. That is the company building the pipeline. “The court’s decision is at odds with the consensus of the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.”
Ruby also noted that those agencies have agreed that the Forest Service has the full authority to approve the pipeline’s crossing of the Appalachian Trail. In the past, 56 other oil and gas pipelines have crossed the trail, Ruby said in the release.
“This opinion brings into question whether or not these existing pipelines can remain in place,” Ruby said.
Dominion will immediately appeal the court’s decision to the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the release said.
“We are confident we will prevail on appeal,” Ruby said.
This new filing is the second recent environmental permit setback for the 600-mile $5.5 billion project. On Dec. 7, construction for the project was stopped when the same court denied another key environmental permit.