By Jeff Currie, Lumber Riverkeeper
Photo Credit: Sierra Club
As 2018 comes to a close, people throughout the Winyah Rivers watersheds are still dealing with persistent rains that are shattering records for yearly rainfall throughout the region. The Lumber River is still high, recently surging past flood stage again in December. With so much devastation wrought by Hurricane Florence, it has been hard year for all, which makes the recent news concerning the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) a welcome “light in the tunnel”. Multiple rulings and decisions by the courts and government agencies signaled to many that the fight to stop the ACP is still alive and kicking as we head into 2019. The US Army Corps of Engineers, on November 20th, agreed to suspend all water crossings on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline due to a federal ruling that the ACP’s Nationwide Permit 12 issued under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act was improper. On December 7th the ACP was dealt the first blow when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement were stayed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The same Fourth Circuit Court followed that up a week later, on December 13th, by vacating an approval by the US Forest Service that allowed the ACP to cross two National Forests and the Blue Ridge Parkway. In the ruling, the court famously quoted from the Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax, in their rebuke of the US Forest Service’s decision to approve the ACP’s destruction of our national heritage. The court said:
“We trust the United States Forest Service to “speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” Dr. Seuss, The Lorax (1971). A thorough review of the record leads to the necessary conclusion that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources. 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.
In light of the Fourth Circuit’s rulings, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was asked to revoke certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but Dominion Energy, in an unusual moment of resignation, had voluntarily suspended all active work on the ACP. Currently, only maintenance and stabilization work is happening along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
As we head into 2019 with such good news, our work is ongoing here in the Lumber River watershed. Thank you for your support.