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Court quotes Dr. Seuss, pulls permit for pipeline that would cross national forests

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 12/15/2018 Julia Fair
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A federal court has vacated an environmental permit that would have allowed The Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross two national forests, according to a court opinion filed Thursday with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The opinion quotes Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, saying: "We trust the United States Forest Service to 'speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.' ” A review of the permit records led the court to decide that the Forest Service "abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources." 

"This conclusion is particularly informed by the Forest Service’s serious environmental concerns that were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines," the opinion reads. 

The court granted a petition to review the Forest Service's Record of Decision and Special Use Permit, vacate the Forest Service's decisions and remand to the Forest Service for proceedings consistent with the new opinion.  

"We strongly disagree with the court’s ruling," said Aaron Ruby in a press release for Dominion Energy, the company building the pipeline. "The court’s decision is at odds with the consensus of the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service."

Ruby added that those agencies have agreed that the Forest Service has the full authority to approve the pipeline's crossing of the Appalachian Trail. In the past, 56 other oil and gas pipelines have crossed the trail, Ruby said in the release.  

"This opinion brings into question whether or not these existing pipelines can remain in place," Ruby said. 

Dominion plans to immediately appeal the court's decision to the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the release said.  

"We are confident we will prevail on appeal," Ruby said. 

The filing is the second recent environmental permit setback for the 600-mile $5.5 billion project. On Dec. 7, construction for the project was halted when the same court denied another key environmental permit.  

The project had to stop construction due to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit placing a stay on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's revised permit for the project. The court's action halts any further legal process to continue on the permit.

The permit would have allowed Dominion to construct the pipeline through a habitat identified as critical for certain threatened or endangered species, according the environmental group Appalachian Voices.

In August, the same court did not accept the original permit issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Follow Julia Fair on Twitter: @JFair_reports

This article originally appeared on Staunton News Leader: Court quotes Dr. Seuss, pulls permit for pipeline that would cross national forests

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