In 7-2 Ruling, Supreme Court Allows Pipeline Below Appalachian Trail

Justices Sotomayor and Kagan broke from their colleagues

George Washington National Forest
George Washington National Forest.
Famartin/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / June 16, 2020 8:59 am

It’s been a big week for the Supreme Court, and it’s only getting started. While the Court’s landmark opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County has understandably received the most attention, it’s also not the only decision that’s been handed down. And for outdoor enthusiasts and environmental advocates, another case could have a huge impact on one of the country’s most beloved trails.

At Adventure Journal, Justin Housman explores the decision to allow a pipeline to be built below a portion of the Appalachian Trail. At issue before the Supreme Court was a question of jurisdiction. The pipeline is set to run through part of the George Washington National Forest, nominally placing it under the purview of the U.S. Forest Service — who were in favor of the pipeline. Within the forest, however, the pipeline would also pass below the Appalachian Trail — which is governed by the National Park Service.

Housman writes that the argument in favor of the National Park Service holding sway here did not convince the Supreme Court:

This, as well as the claim that the NPS ultimately had jurisdiction over the pipeline, were ultimately not compelling to SCOTUS, which argued that the Mineral Leasing Act allowed the USFS to decide the pipeline was valuable enough to move forward.

As NPR’s report on the case notes, the decision crossed ideological lines. Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were the only two Justices to dissent from the decision to move forward with the pipeline. There remain other legal and logistical boundaries to building the pipeline, however; this is likely not the last you’ll hear of this particular project.

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