Today’s decision could resolve six-year battle to preserve American history
Washington, DC – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit today ruled in favor of National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), determining that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to comply with federal environmental laws when granting a permit allowing Dominion Energy to construct a massive transmission line across the James River at historic Jamestown. The court ordered that the Corps’ permit be vacated and that the Corps prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
“Today’s ruling is a major victory for the preservation of historic Jamestown and all we continue to learn from this place,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. “The Army Corps cut corners in approving this permit and Jamestown and the surrounding national park landscape are paying the price. The Court’s ruling follows the will of the people and all who care about our national park sites.”
NPCA sued the Army Corps in 2017, claiming the federal agency granted Dominion Energy authorization to proceed with a highly controversial plan to build 17 obstructive transmission towers, some as tall as 295 feet, across the James River at Jamestown, without properly analyzing the project’s environmental impacts to the landscape and failing to consider viable alternatives. Over this six-year battle, NPCA worked with independent energy experts to provide alternatives that would address energy needs without defacing historic resources at Jamestown. Those options included burying the lines under the river or reconfiguring existing transmission lines to provide power.
Today, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously ruled that the Army Corps should not have granted Dominion Energy’s permit without conducting a full Environmental Impact Statement that included a thorough review of reasonable alternatives. Today’s decision reversed a prior ruling in May 2018 from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which sided with the Army Corps. The D.C. Circuit not only ordered the Corps to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on remand, but also to consider practicable alternatives to the transmission line in compliance with NEPA and the Clean Water Act.
The massive powerline project would deface historic Jamestown, as well as surrounding national park sites in the region including Colonial National Historical Park, Colonial Parkway and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, one of our country’s most significant and historic landscapes. The project also threatens federally endangered species like the Atlantic and Shortnose Sturgeon that rely on the James River for critical habitat.
“The James River and its surrounding national park landscape protects our rich history and provides an opportunity for millions of visitors to learn about our nation’s founding and lessons relevant still today,” added Pierno. “After more than six years in this battle, we celebrate this substantial win with our partners and the thousands of park advocates across the country who spoke up about the importance for protecting this place. The battle is not over and we will continue to ensure Jamestown and all it represents is protected for generations to come.”
NPCA is represented in this case by the public interest environmental law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP. More information about the years-long campaign to protect historic Jamestown is available here.
About National Parks Conservation Association Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
About Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP Since 1993, Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP has represented national, regional, and grassroots conservation organizations in federal litigation on issues of national importance. Please direct any legal inquiries about this lawsuit to William S. Eubanks II of Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP.
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