The U.S. Forest Service (NFS) filed on February 11 a petition for review of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in December vacating the NFS permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP, LLC) had previously filed a challenge to the decision, on January 28. The NFS petition states:
. . . the Forest Service seeks rehearing of the panel’s holding that National Forest System land traversed by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail “is land in the National Park System.” Slip op. 52. That holding presents “a question of exceptional importance,” Fed. R. App. P. 35(a)(2), because it may preclude the construction of infrastructure for any pipeline across all federal lands traversed by the 2100-mile Appalachian Trail in states within the jurisdiction of this Court, and because it contradicts the plain language of the National Trails System Act and the agencies’ consistent practice over eighty years of Appalachian Trail management. The panel’s holding also calls into question the validity of dozens of Forest Service permits for electrical transmission lines, telecommunications sites, municipal water facilities, roads, and grazing areas.
Reaching this issue was unnecessary to the judgment. The Forst Service seeks rehearing to preclude the above-described holding from having precedential effect — with disruptive consequences for the many operations of the Forest Service and the Park Service in this Circuit.
The NFS petition, like the previously one filed by ACP, LLC, requests that all fifteen members of the Fourth Circuit hear the appeal. At this writing, the Court has not yet acted on either petition.