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US Supreme Court to hear pipeline case

CHARLESTON — The U.S. Supreme Court, Monday, will hear arguments from an 18-state group led by West Virginia to overturn a lower court’s decision that stopped construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The issue is whether the U.S. Forest Service can grant a right of way under the Mineral Leasing Act on land upon which the Appalachian Trail goes through national forests.

The 4th Circuit court of appeals in 2018 sided with the Cowpasture River Preservation Society and said the Forest Service lacked the authority. The Forest Service and Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC filed petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

“The appeals court decision put thousands of men and women out of work,” West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey said. “Our broad coalition and state leaders are unified in hoping the Supreme Court will overturn that devastating decision. A sound court ruling will lead to a stronger economy, more residents gainfully employed and more tax revenue for our communities.”

The pipeline will carry natural gas through Harrison, Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Pocahontas counties in West Virginia to markets in Virginia and North Carolina. Stopping the project has cost West Virginia a minimum of 1,500 well-paying jobs, laborers who would have made between $25 and $40 per hour plus per expenses, and the tax revenue from income and property, Morrisey said at press conference in Charleston this week.

Opponents to the pipeline and other pipelines are environmental groups including the Sierra Club, the Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Voices, 350.org and the Bold Alliance.

The attorneys general from the 18 states contend the 4th Circuit’s decision make a thousand miles of the Appalachian Trail into “a near-impenetrable barrier to energy development — all to avoid a one-tenth mile crossing deep beneath the surface on a 600-mile pipeline,” Morrisey said.

Nationwide, more than 11,000 miles of federal trails would be immune from development and could disrupt the national power grid because of a chilling effect it could have on infrastructure investment.

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