Forest Service Rejects Pipeline Route
Plans for construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline hit a snag this week, as the United States Forest Service rejected the proposed route through the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests. In a letter to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, dated January 19th, the USFS informed the company that it must develop an alternative route to avoid the Cheat Mountain and Cow Knob Salamanders and their habitats, the West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel and its habitat, and spruce ecosystem restoration areas. The letter says “These resources, and any other resources that are of such irreplaceable character that minimization and compensation measures may not be adequate or appropriate, should be avoided.” The Forest Service also expressed concerns with horizontal directional drilling to cross underneath the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The full letter is attached to this story on our website at alleghenymountainradio.org.
Organizations opposing the project weighed in with support for the decision. Greg Buppert, Senior Attorney at Southern Environmental Law Center said “Dominion stubbornly persisted on a route that was identified as severely destructive from the start. It is time for them to step back and truly reconsider the need for this pipeline at all.” Lew Freeman, Chair of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, said “Today’s letter is welcome news for the 44 organizations in West Virginia and Virginia who have stood together to oppose this pipeline. Our organization has said from the beginning that building a pipeline through the Allegheny-Blue Ridge region presents serious, long-term devastation to this special area of the country. It is commendable that the Forest Service is taking seriously its permitting role.”
When reached for comment on the decision, Jim Norvelle, Director of Communications for Dominion Energy said “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, will continue to work with the U.S. Forest Service to find a route for the interstate natural gas pipeline that is needed to bring reliable supplies of energy to Virginia and North Carolina. Today’s letter is part of the permitting process as we work cooperatively to find the best route with the least impact. We appreciate the USFS’s examination of this option and remain confident we will find an acceptable route.
In its response today to the ACP’s Nov. 12, 2015, special use request, the USFS said it had determined that a proposed route does not meet minimum requirements of initial screening criteria for threatened species in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia and the George Washington National Forest in Virginia. The USFS asked for alternatives to be developed. The ACP believes that its routing specialists, in consultation with USFS officials, will find an acceptable route.”