WASHINGTON (GRAY DC) — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from lawyers challenging the blocked path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Monday.
No matter what the Supreme Court decides, construction will likely remain stalled on the 600-mile pipeline in 2020, unless developers chart a new course.
A lower court found a host of issues with the permit process; the highest court will only consider one: whether the National Park Service or National Forest Service should be the arm of government that approves or blocks a pipeline crossing deep below the Appalachian Trail.
West Virginia’s Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey backs the U.S. Forest Service, arguing the project promises jobs and a stronger economic future. He expects Monday will go well for his side.
"We're very cautiously optimistic, but we feel very good," he said.
Lawyers directly involved with arguing for the pipeline did not make time to speak with us for this story.
Morrisey said navigating around protected trails on federal land will cost unnecessary time and money.
"We have to protect the environment, but you can't just set up this barrier."
The three-and-a-half-foot wide pipeline is designed to pump natural gas from West Virginia's Marcellus Shale to power companies in North Carolina and Virginia, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy.
Lawyers arguing against it, saying developers cut corners on their permit paperwork as did the regulators who initially approved it.
"These federal agencies just tossed out the rule book and did what the pipeline company asked them to do," said D.J. Gerken, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Gerken said the pipeline carries problems for natural resources and communities in all three states. He said promises of lower power bills don't add up.
"This is not about supplying electricity families need," he said, "this is a boondoggle for two big utilities, who are going to get a guaranteed return and take it out of rate-payers pockets."
The Supreme Court will begin listening to arguments at 10 a.m. Monday, and make its decision by the end of June at the latest.
But the fights over this pipeline - and its potential impacts on people, the economy, and environment -- won't end with this case.
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