U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Burr’s Amicus Brief to Help Facilitate Domestic Energy Transportation

Firm News

In December 2019, a team from Burr’s appellate litigation group, working alongside South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan and sixty-one other members of U.S. House of Representatives, filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court to facilitate domestic energy transportation. The case involved a right-of-way under the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest for Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s 604-mile natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina.

The U.S. Forest Service initially granted Atlantic Coast Pipeline a right-of-way to construct the pipeline 600 feet under a 0.1-mile segment of the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, however, threw out the permit, concluding that the U.S. Forest Service did not have the ability to grant those rights. Burr’s amicus brief explained that it was Congress’s intent for the U.S. Forest Service to have the ability to grant rights-of-way across the Appalachian Trail when the trail crosses national forest land and that Congress supported domestic energy production and transportation, including through pipelines.

On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Fourth Circuit’s decision that had blocked the construction of the natural gas pipeline. The decision is a significant victory for the energy industry. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a multi-billion dollar venture by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy. Upon its completion, the pipeline could carry as much as 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to customers in North Carolina and Virginia.

Originally posted December 9, 2019

Team from Burr Files U.S. Supreme Court Brief for Members of Congress to Help Facilitate Domestic Energy Transportation

A team from Burr’s appellate litigation group filed a brief today with the U.S. Supreme Court involving rights-of-way for the pipeline and energy industry. The firm worked alongside South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan on the brief, which addresses issues with a recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decision affecting Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the ability to construct pipelines under the Appalachian Trail.

Atlanta Coast Pipeline was initially given a right-of-way to build a pipeline across the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest by the US Forest Service. However, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the US Forest Service did not have the authority to grant those rights, stating this was National Park System land which is excluded under the Mineral Leasing Act. Therefore, neither the Forest Service nor any government agency is allowed to grant rights-of-way.

The brief makes the case that the Mineral Leasing Act and Trails Act clearly state that national forest land over which the Appalachian Trail runs remains under the jurisdiction of the US Forest Service, allowing the agency the ability to grant the rights-of-way. In addition, the brief goes on to state the Fourth Circuit’s position is at odds with Congress’ ongoing support of domestic energy production and transportation.

The brief, filed with 62 supporting members of Congress, is a big step for the domestic energy industry in its ability to produce and transport energy across the US through pipeline construction.

Burr’s alternative and renewable energy team works with clients within the alternative and renewable energy industry, bringing in attorneys from multiple areas within the firm including corporate, economic development, tax, real estate, environmental, and regulatory practices. The team is experienced in dealing with projects throughout the United States related to solar, wind, biofuels and biomass, synthetic fuels, hydrogen fuel cells, natural gas technologies, and nuclear energy. The energy team deals with a wide-range of legal matters including state incentives, permitting and environmental issues, financing, real estate, power supply agreements, and federal & state energy tax credits.

Burr’s appellate litigation team is one of the most experienced in the southeast region. Handling appeals at all levels of the state and federal system, and assisting with major cases in the trial courts, Burr’s appellate team works with clients from a broad spectrum of industries on cases involving nearly every legal subject. Burr also routinely represents parties filing amicus curiae briefs addressing complex and important issues that impact more than just the parties to a single case. When cases have the potential to shape the law, organizations turn to Burr to make sure their voices are heard and that courts realize the broader effects of their decisions.

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