Can the Appalachian Trail Block a Natural Gas Pipeline?

by Noah M Sachs | August 14, 2019

This commentary is excerpted from The American Prospect.

Hiking south on the Appalachian Trail from Reeds Gap in Virginia, my teenage daughter and I come to a clearing. We’re at the Three Ridges Overlook, taking in the view of the Rockfish River Valley undulating to the east. Piney Mountain, blanketed in a green canopy of oaks and poplars, stares back at us from across the divide. This tranquil section of the iconic trail is the subject of a four-year legal battle that landed in June at the Supreme Court. It’s the spot where Dominion Energy wants to route the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), a $7.5 billion, 600-mile, 42-inch-diameter pipe that will carry fracked natural gas from the depths of the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia. The pipeline would run up and over several mountain ranges to the Virginia coast and to eastern North Carolina.

The stakes are high. The lawsuit over this section of the Appalachian Trail could determine the fate of some of the largest natural gas deposits in North America. In a landmark decision last December, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond axed the project—for now. That court found that the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine is part of the National Park System, blocking federal agencies from authorizing a pipeline crossing. The astonishing decision upended the U.S. natural gas industry and also jeopardizes other pipeline projects with proposed routes across the trail.

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Maryland's Environmental and Energy Policy Moving Backward under the Hogan Administration

by Jeremy Baker | September 29, 2016
Larry Hogan promised to be the "best environmental governor that's ever served" in Maryland. But three recent policy developments call that claim into question.  Earlier this year, the Hogan administration vetoed the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which would have raised Maryland's renewable energy portfolio standard – the share of electricity that energy providers must derive from renewable sources – from 20 percent by 2022 to 25 percent by 2020. A stronger commitment to renewable energy could have had a tremendous ...

Federal District Court: Feds May Not Regulate Fracking on Federal Lands

by Hannah Wiseman | June 22, 2016
In a merits opinion issued on June 21, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming (Judge Skavdahl) held that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management--the agency tasked with protecting and preserving federal lands for multiple uses by the public--lacks the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on federally-owned and managed lands. Using a Chevron step 1 analysis (one standard used to review agencies' interpretation of the meaning of statutes that grant agencies authority), the court finds that "Congress has directly spoken ...

Local Governments' Lost Voice in Energy Decisions

by Hannah Wiseman | June 07, 2016
The Colorado Supreme Court's decisions last month holding that local governments in Colorado could not ban or place long-term moratoria on hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") added to the growing list of states that have preempted local control over this oil and gas production method. This is a troublesome trend and one that calls for closer scrutiny as more states follow this path. Local governments are "merely" arms of the state, and, therefore, states do have the power to take back the ...

Regulating Hydraulic Fracturing -- Can/Will States do the Job?

by Ben Somberg | January 07, 2010
A few months ago Rena Steinzor wrote skeptically here about state (as opposed to federal) regulation of hydraulic fracturing: ... the idea that after doing all this research, EPA should stand back and let the gas-producing states take the lead, stepping in only after much more delay, would amount to a rollback of environmental protection to the dark days of the 1950s and 1960s, before modern environmentalism and federal regulation began. Last week ProPublica had a useful article on a ...

Climate Change Schizophrenia: Cash For Coal Clunkers, Anthems for Natural Gas, and Delaying Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing Won't Win this Epic Battle

by Rena Steinzor | September 02, 2009
Those of us worried sick over climate change confronted a depressing piece of excellent reporting in Monday's Washington Post. Environment reporter David Fahrenthold wrote that environmental organizations are getting their proverbial clocks cleaned by a well-organized and pervasive campaign mounted by affected industries in small and mid-size communities throughout America. “It seems that environmentalists are struggling in a fight they have spent years setting up,” Fahrenthold wrote. “Even now, these groups differ on whether to scare the public with predictions ...

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