The U.S. Supreme Court said Friday it would hear the appeal of Atlantic Coast Pipeline owners and the Trump administration over the rejection of a permit that would allow the natural gas line to cross the Appalachian Trail.
A U.S. Appeals Court threw out a U.S. Forestry Service permit last year allowing the pipeline to cross the wilderness trail, ruling that the Forest Service did not have the authority to grant the rights-of-way.
Lawsuits have stalled construction on the controversial 600-mile natural gas pipeline planned to run from West Virginia to North Carolina.
A spokesman for the pipeline project said in an email that the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case is encouraging.
“We are confident in our arguments, and those of the Solicitor General, and are hopeful the Supreme Court will overturn the Fourth Circuit’s decision and uphold the longstanding precedent allowing pipeline crossings of the Appalachian Trail,” Atlantic Coast Pipeline spokesman Aaron Ruby said in an emailed statement.
A ruling for the pipeline will allow construction to resume by late summer next year and finish by late 2021, the email said.
The Sierra Club and the Southern Environmental Law Center, which represented environmental groups in the case, said in a statement they will defend the Appeals Court decision.
“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a dangerous, costly and unnecessary project, and we won’t stand by while Duke and Dominion Energy try to force it on our public lands, threatening people’s health, endangered species, iconic landscapes and clean water along the way,” their statement said.
Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas are also partners in the pipeline project.
Pipeline opponents in North Carolina have pressured Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration to revoke a permit issued by the state Department of Environmental Quality last year, The News & Observer reported.