CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey celebrated what he is calling a major victory last week as the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling that had blocked construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The Attorney General led an 18-state coalition that successfully argued for the court’s ultimate position. Its brief contended that a federal appeals court inaccurately ruled the U.S. Forest Service lacked authority to grant the rights-of-way through forestland beneath federal trails.
“The Supreme Court’s decision will help put back to work thousands of men and women,” Morrisey said. “The Supreme Court’s opinion overturns a devastating decision and will go a long way to building a stronger economy and tax base nationwide, especially in north central West Virginia.”
When completed, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will transport natural gas through Harrison, Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Pocahontas counties en route to Virginia and North Carolina.
The halting of pipeline construction cost the state at least 1,500 well-paying jobs and lost revenue from income and property taxes. The jobs in question paid laborers between $25 to $40 per hour, plus per diem.
The Attorney General argued the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling would have transformed 1,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail into a near-impenetrable barrier to energy development — all to avoid a one-tenth mile crossing deep beneath the surface on a 600-mile pipeline.
The Attorney General contended that, if applied nationwide, the lower-court decision would have sealed off more than 11,000 miles of federal trails from development and potentially disrupted the national power grid because of the chilling effect it could have had on infrastructure investment.