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Atlantic Coast Pipeline developer to launch Supreme Court appeal

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Developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline said Tuesday that they’ll ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal of a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling vacating a U.S. Forest Service permit that would have allowed the natural gas pipeline to cross two national forests in Virginia including bisecting the Appalachian Trail.

The ACP is a proposed 605-mile pipeline that would pump fracked natural gas from West Virginia, through Virginia and into North Carolina.

Some 12 miles of the 36-inch diameter pipeline would be buried in the ground in western Wilson County from Sims to the Buckhorn community.

Dominion Energy is leading the effort to install the pipeline. Dominion said it plans to file an appeal to the nation’s highest court within the next 90 days.

The Associated Press reported that on Monday, the 4th Circuit rejected a request by Dominion Energy attorneys for a full-court rehearing.

In December, a three-judge panel ruled that the U.S. Forest Service lacks the authority to authorize the trail crossing. The ruling said the federal agency had “abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources” by approving the ACP crossing the George Washington and Monongahela national forests, as well as allowing a right-of-way across the Appalachian Trial.

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Sierra Club, the Virginia Wilderness Committee and other environmental groups, which resulted in the appellate ruling.

In a joint statement between the law center and the Sierra Club, the groups said the court’s ruling “sends the Atlantic Coast Pipeline back to the drawing board.”

Both groups believe Dominion Energy can’t build the pipeline “without causing massive landslides and threatening the Appalachian Trail and our clean water,” according to a Monday joint news release.

Dominion said in a statement that it will be pursuing “legislative and administrative options” in addition to its plan to petition for a U.S. Supreme Court review of the lower court ruling.

“We are confident that the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture have the authority to resolve the Appalachian Trail crossing issue administratively in a manner that satisfies the court’s stated objection,” Dominion said in a statement.

The energy company said it’s confident the issues can be resolved in order to permit construction work to continue.