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Climate activist groups protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as oral arguments are heard in U.S. Forest Service and Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC v. Cowpasture River Assn. case, on February 24, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Climate activist groups protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as oral arguments are heard in U.S. Forest Service and Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC v. Cowpasture River Assn. case, on February 24, 2020 in Washington, D.C. The high court is hearing cases on Dominion Energy's proposed $7.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline crossing the Appalachian Trail. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

'Our Fight Is Not Over,' Say Green Groups After Supreme Court Clears Hurdle for Fracked Gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline

"We will take it to the courts, to the halls of power, and to the streets."

Andrea Germanos

Environmental campaigners on Monday reiterated their opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline after a U.S. Supreme Court decision removing a hurdle for the "climate-wrecking" fracked gas infrastructure project.

The high court's Monday decision (pdf) was 7-2, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer joining the court's conservative majority. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented. 

"At the heart of the case," NPR reported, "was a technical legal question about which federal agency, if any, had the authority to grant the permit for the pipeline."

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2018 that the U.S. Forest Service didn't have the authority to issue the permit for the behind schedule and over-budget Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) pipeline, which is owned by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy and would cross the Appalachian Trail on federal land. The Appalachian Trail is administered by the National Park Service, an agency of the Interior Department.

The new ruling overturns that lower court's decision. From Reuters:

In Monday's ruling, the Supreme Court agreed with the Trump administration that the Forest Service retained the authority to approve rights of way across the trail.

The park service's authority over the trail "did not transform the land over which the trail passes into land within the National Park System," [conservative Justice Clarence] Thomas wrote.

"It's been six years since this pipeline was proposed, we didn't need it then and we certainly don't need it now," said Dick Brooks of the Cowpasture River Preservation, one of the local organizations fighting the pipeline. "Today's decision doesn't change the fact that Dominion chose a risky route through protected federal lands, steep mountains, and vulnerable communities," he added.

Kelly Martin, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign, said that the pipeline's future is still uncertain.

"With the ACP still lacking eight permits, this decision is just plugging just one hole on a sinking ship," said Martin. "Nothing in today's ruling changes the fact that the fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a dirty, dangerous threat to our health, climate, and communities, and nothing about the ruling changes our intention to fight it."

The new ruling from the Supreme Court, said Donna Chavis, senior fossil fuel campaigner Friends of the Earth, goes beyond the ACP.

"It was about the integrity of our national forests and parks and how they are protected," said Chavis, claiming that "the court chose to ignore our communities and our environment in favor of the fossil fuel industry and this unnecessary and risky project that reeks of environmental racism."

"But our fight is not over, and we will push to ensure that this climate-wrecking project is never completed," she continued. "We will take it to the courts, to the halls of power, and to the streets. The court of public opinion will be heard, and that opinion differs from the U.S. Supreme Court."

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