United States Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Assn.

Petitioner Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic), sought to construct an approximately 604-mile natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina along a route that traversed 16 miles of land within the George Washington National Forest. As relevant here, Atlantic secured a special use permit from the United States Forest Service, obtaining a right-of-way for a 0.1-mile segment of pipe some 600 feet below a portion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Appalachian Trail or Trail), which also crosses the National Forest. Respondents filed a petition for review in the Fourth Circuit, contending, inter alia, that the issuance of the special use permit for the right-of-way under the Trail violated the Mineral Leasing Act (Leasing Act). Atlantic intervened. The Fourth Circuit vacated the permit, holding that the Leasing Act did not empower the Forest Service to grant the right-ofway because the Trail became part of the National Park System when the Secretary of the Interior delegated its authority over the Trail’s administration to the National Park Service, and that the Leasing Act prohibits pipeline rights-of-way through lands in the National Park System.United States Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Assn.