CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is leading an 18-state alliance urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that blocked construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The coalition says the shutdown was unnecessary and impedes the nation’s economic growth. The group's friend of the court brief, filed Dec. 9, says the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was wrong in ruling the U.S. Forest Service lacked authority to grant the 605-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline rights-of-way through forestland beneath federal trails.
Morrisey has been urging the Supreme Court to hear the case.
“The appeal court’s decision has devastating effects for West Virginia,” Morrisey said. “We appreciate the Supreme Court’s review and believe a decision to overturn the prior ruling will end unnecessary delays that have halted pipeline construction, kept heating fuel prices high, negatively impacted struggling working class families and been detrimental to the services they receive.”
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would transport natural gas through Harrison, Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Pocahontas counties to Virginia and North Carolina. Morrisey says the halting of pipeline construction has cost West Virginia jobs and lost revenue from income and property taxes.
If left intact, the attorneys general argue the 4th Circuit's ruling from December 2018 would transform 1,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail into a near-impenetrable barrier to energy development – all due to a one-tenth mile crossing deep beneath the surface on a 600-mile pipeline. The judges of the 4th Circuit said the U.S. Forest Service acted irresponsibly by granting the permit given “serious environmental concerns” related to the pipeline.
If applied nationwide, the coalition argues the lower court decision would seal off more than 11,000 miles of federal trails from development and potentially disrupt the national power grid because of the chilling effect it could have on infrastructure investment.
The West Virginia-led brief received support from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
Several environmental groups filed a brief this summer supporting the 4th Circuit ruling. Supreme Court oral arguments on the case are scheduled for Feb. 24.