A flurry of news has been made recently about America’s struggle to keep fossil fuels in the ground and block dirty pipeline development. Rulings in favor of the people prove that Trump’s rush to illegally approve fossil fuel infrastructure can’t withstand scrutiny before the nation’s courts.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline Is Shelved After Rising Challenges
We are elated to report that the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) has been scrapped. It was becoming increasingly clear that permitting decisions surrounding this project were made in haste and under duress, as political appointees and the Trump transition team silenced the warnings of seasoned professionals who raised concerns about the environmental impacts of the 600-plus mile pipeline project. As costs ballooned, need evaporated and permits denied, it became clear to the public (and the developers themselves) that this project needed to be abandoned.
Dakota Access Pipeline Operations Halted For Environmental Justice Review
Adding to the trend of good news, a recent decision was issued concerning the now-operational Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and it showed that hasty completion of a pipeline project does not excuse developers and federal permitting agencies from meeting the project review requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act. In light of the pipeline’s recent spill of more than 300,000 gallons of oil, Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for D.C. ordered that operation of the DAPL be stopped within 30 days to prevent further environmental harm while the government takes a more in-depth review of this project’s impacts on environmental justice communities. This case shows that the federal judiciary is finally taking action to halt fossil fuel projects that have not followed the law.
Keystone XL Gets Hamstrung After Trump’s Personal Fast-Tracking
In 2017, following a denial of permits by the Obama administration, the notorious Keystone XL pipeline was fast-tracked by Trump only 5 days after he entered office. As a result, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) allowed construction in waterways without reviewing each individual waterbody crossing for the proposed 1,179-mile tar sands pipeline. However, in early 2020, the U.S. District Court for Montana found that ACOE failed to meaningfully consult with federal wildlife authorities on the impacts to endangered species, thus stopping development of all gas pipelines across the U.S. This national stoppage went through a series of appeals, ultimately landing in the U.S. Supreme Court. The court placed a stay on the District Court’s injunction for all nationwide permit holders, allowing them to resume development – all except the Keystone XL pipeline. It remains blocked for the time being.
Court Rules In Landowners’ Favor Against Federal Energy Agency
Recently, Food & Water Watch joined an amicus brief in the D.C. Circuit case of Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission). The court issued an opinion on behalf of the entire Circuit Court bench. This decision struck down the FERC’s abuse of “tolling orders,” a maneuver FERC used to keep affected landowners and pipeline opponents in administrative limbo, denying individuals their due process rights to challenge pipeline projects in a court of law. This comes on the tail end of efforts by Food & Water Watch and the House Committee of Oversight, Subcommittee on Civil Rights to stop FERC’s abuse of pipeline opponents through these administrative means.
Though these court decisions are all positive news, one thing must be kept in mind: These victories were won through the efforts of nonprofit organizations like Food & Water Watch and allies. Against the backdrop of a federal government now crawling with industry lackeys and Big Oil professionals, nonprofits like us have to step in to protect the environment and hold the government accountable to the people. And we will keep doing so, every day.
Will you chip in monthly to keep these fights going? Together, we’ll keep winning in the battle to protect our planet.