Waterkeepers Chesapeake strongly supports today’s decision by the United States Forest Service to formally deny the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s (ACP) application for a Special Use Permit. The U.S. Forest Service rejects the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests to protect the sensitive resources and endangered species found on Cheat Mountain, Back Allegheny Mountain, and Shenandoah Mountain. The rejection of the preferred route underscores how shallow Dominion’s analysis has been and will likely delay the project. Any further consideration of alternative routes in this region must be carefully and independently scrutinized.
Since 2014 when Dominion announced its intention to build a major gas transmission line through one of the most intact wild areas on the East Coast, Waterkeepers Chesapeake has joined with the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance to repeatedly raise concerns about the significant harm to the region’s natural resources that the project would cause. As planned, the ACP would run over 550 miles through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. It would be larger in diameter than the Keystone XL. Approximately 40-50 miles of the ACP would cut through the Washington and Monongahela National Forests. The pipeline would cause permanent clearcuts throughout the entire length of the pipeline, causing dramatic forest fragmentation through some of the most high-quality forest habitat in our region.
The George Washington National Forest protects the headwaters of the Potomac and James Rivers. It is a direct source of local drinking water to more than 329,000 people living in and around the Shenandoah Valley, and it lies in the watersheds of the James, Shenandoah, and Potomac Rivers—which ultimately provide water to over 4.5 million people downstream in cities such as Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA. Waterkeepers Chesapeake argues that all public lands should be protected from hydraulic fracturing or fracking for natural gas and oil, and from pipelines and other related infrastructure to protect our water resources from irreversible contamination.
The George Washington National Forest is the largest federal landholding in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Local and regional governments and businesses have expressed widespread concern that opening public lands to fracking and pipelines would negatively affect local economies, particularly adjacent farms and the local recreation and tourism economy, which are the economic engines of the area. Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, and the national forest region provides more than two-thirds of the value of the Commonwealth’s agricultural production.
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