U.S. Supreme Court overturns 4th Circuit ruling that would have blocked pipeline crossing

U.S. Supreme Court overturns 4th Circuit ruling that would have blocked pipeline crossing

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down an appeals court ruling that would have blocked construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline beneath the Appalachian Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The court voted 7-2 to overturn the ruling by the 4th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond. The ruling will allow construction of the 42-inch-wide pipeline to tunnel beneath the trail where it crosses land managed by the U.S. Forest Service in the George Washington National Forest.

The decision will enable Dominion Resources and its partners to cross the Blue Ridge between Augusta and Nelson counties to complete the $8 billion, 600-mile project and connect gas shale fields in West Virginia to markets on the Atlantic coast of Virginia and North Carolina.

However, construction of the pipeline remains suspended pending the approval of a permit by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to show that the project would not pose an existential threat to endangered or threatened species in its path.

The 4th Circuit overturned the biological opinion issued for the project, as well as a state permit for construction of a natural gas compressor station at the pipeline’s proposed intersection with an existing natural gas pipeline at Union Hill in Buckingham County.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion for the court, and was joined by all of his colleagues in whole or part, except for Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who issued a dissenting opinion.

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