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Doing Dr. Seuss Proud.

In a decision that has rallied pipeline protesters and Dr. Seuss fans alike, a federal appeals court in Virginia quoted The Lorax in its ruling rejecting a key United States Forest Service (USFS) permit for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In December, the court issued a 60-page decision excoriating the Forest Service for giving in to industry interests and falling short of its duty to steward public lands.

"We trust the United States Forest Service to 'speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues,'" wrote Judge Stephanie D. Thacker, quoting Dr. Seuss's classic 1971 book The Lorax, in the decision. "A thorough review of the record leads to the necessary conclusion that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources."

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a multi-billion-dollar project led by Dominion Energy, would carry natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina, and was slated to cross both the George Washington and Monongahela national forests. Though the USFS initially raised environmental questions about the project, these serious concerns "were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company's deadlines," the opinion states.

As The Washington Post reports, though initially asked to submit ten possible routes for the pipeline, in late 2016 Dominion submitted just two to the Forest Service. Both routes passed through National Forest land and crossed the Appalachian Trail--an apparent effort to avoid alternative routes that would require crossing the trail on land managed by the National Park Service. The Park Service had made clear that it would not approve an Appalachian Trail crossing without congressional support.

In approving the pipeline the USFS had violated both the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Service Management Act, the court said. What's more, the judges held that the Forest Service does not have the authority to approve an Appalachian Trail crossing as the trail is part of the national parks system.

Thacker's opinion followed on the heels of another 4th Circuit decision that suspended several US Fish and Wildlife Service permits for the pipeline due to concern about how the project would impact four endangered species: the Indiana bat, clubshell mussel, Madison cave isopod (a freshwater crustacean), and the rusty-patched bumblebee. That suspension required a temporary halt to all work on the pipeline.

Dominion has indicated that it will appeal the decision. But for now, at least, those fighting the pipeline can celebrate--they've delayed one more cog in the US' seemingly ever-expanding climate-warming machine.

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Caption: In December, a federal judge rejected a key US Forest Service permit for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Her ruling made news around the country for quoting Dr. Seuss's The Lorax.

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Title Annotation:FRONTLINES; ruling by federal appeals court in Virginia to reject United States Forest Service permit for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline
Publication:Earth Island Journal
Date:Mar 22, 2019
Words:456
Previous Article:Sidelining Science.
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