The partners behind a controversial pipeline that would have crossed the USA's iconic Appalachian Trail have cancelled the project, less than three weeks after winning approval for a key permit from the Supreme Court.
Dominion Energy and Duke Energy cited the uncertainty and cost of ongoing litigation over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline's environmental permits as a factor in their decision to end the project.
First proposed in 2013, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have run almost 970km from West Virginia to North Carolina, transporting some 1/2 billion cubic metres of natural gas daily from the Utica and Marcellus Shales.
Opposition to the planned pipeline was swift. Tribal nations including the Lumbee, Coharie, and Haliwa-Saponi expressed concerns that they hadn't been consulted about the pipeline's impact on culturally-significant areas and water supplies, while private landowners lobbied against it.
On June 15, the Supreme Court removed one obstacle to the ACP's construction when it ruled 7-2 that the Forest Service had acted within its authority in permitting the pipeline to cross beneath the Appalachian Trail.
However, several other permits the project required were still in limbo; in April, a federal court in Montana struck down a US Army Corps of Engineers policy that had allowed construction on the ACP and other pipelines to proceed.
Senior Attorney Patrick Hunter of the Southern Environmental Law Center, which sued to block construction on the pipeline, said that the cancellation caught him by surprise.
"I was not expecting to get the news on Sunday — didn't have any idea that the decision was being made," he said. "I will say that this project had a lot of problems."