Southwest Virginia pipeline fighters travel to DC for possible landmark Supreme Court case

Atlantic Coast Pipeline challenge could have impacts on Mountain Valley Pipeline, too.

WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday the Supreme Court started on what could be a landmark case affecting pipelines in our area and across the East Coast. An environmental group is challenging the permit issues to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail, and it could affect the Mountain Valley Pipeline because it, too, crosses the Appalachian trail on federal land.

If the ruling were to be reversed, it would likely delay construction and add them to the project’s overall cost. Pipeline fighters from our area were in DC Monday for a front-row seat.

The 9:55 p.m. Amtrak train to Roanoke arrived Monday night carrying possibly some of the strongest willed folks it’s carried in a long time. Stepping onto the platform after a long day were pipeline fighters such as Emily Satterwhite, who said she was proud of the resistance she saw.

“The thing that was really amazing about today was seeing so many people who have been fighting the climate crisis by fighting fracked gas pipelines," Satterwhite said.

Protesters rallied outside the Supreme Court, while inside lawyers got just one hour to argue before the judges. The Southern Environmental Law Center said the Atlantic Coast Pipeline should be stopped.

“We are confident about the arguments we made today in front of the united states supreme court, but have no doubt this pipeline is unreasonable and risky, and has a long road ahead of it no matter what happens today," SELC attorney DJ Gerken said to a crowd after the hearing.

The question the court is considering is a narrow one, challenging if the ACP should have gotten its permit to cross the Appalachian trail in the Shenandoah Valley on national land in the first place. It argues the Forest Service was not the correct issuing body for the permit. When the permit was awarded to the pipeline, it was the first of its kind, and if reversed, it could force a re-route for not only the ACP but the Mountain Valley Pipeline through the areas around Roanoke as well.

“Every time our clients and our partners stood up for our communities and the public places that they love and for the rule of law these permits were tossed out again and again," Gerken said.

Maury Johnson of Monroe County, West Virginia was the camped outside at the court’s steps all night Sunday to be first in lane for the gallery. His land is slated to be crossed by the Mountain Valley Pipeline and he wants that to change. Satterwhite said the power lies with the people, but she’s concerned that the Trump administration encouraged the case to be heard, questioning the motive.

“I’m not counting on the supreme court to win this fight for us," Satterwhite said.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League also shared its concerns for the pipeline projects and supports those fighting against them.