Quoting Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax,” the Fourth Circuit spoke for the trees this month by scrapping a key federal permit for a planned section of a natural gas pipeline crossing 21 miles of national forest in Virginia, including a section of the Appalachian Trail.
“We trust the United States Forest Service to ‘speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues,’” the ruling states, citing the 1971 children’s book. “For the reasons set forth herein, we grant the petition to review the Forest Service’s record of decision and special use permit, vacate the Forest Service’s decisions, and remand to the Forest Service for proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
The Richmond-based appeals court said the Forest Service, which had approved a permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to snake through the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests, pulled an about-face after its technical staff’s research painted a “grim picture” of the pipeline’s potential impacts on the environment.
“A thorough review of the record leads to the necessary conclusion that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources,” U.S. Circuit Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. “This conclusion is particularly informed by the Forest Service’s serious environmental concerns that were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines.” [Read more…]