From the Editors

How local activists shut down the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

The stakes were high for those in the pipeline’s path—and they fought accordingly.

Early last month, fossil fuel companies and their pipelines had a bad couple of days. A Supreme Court ruling halted the planned expansion of the massive Keystone Pipeline; the same day, a US district court ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline to be shut down and emptied. Both oil pipelines now face stricter environmental review and significant delays, despite President Trump’s efforts to fast-track them.

The previous day, there was a larger development farther east: the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was canceled. The proposed natural gas pipeline would have run 600 miles, from West Virginia to North Carolina, crossing both the Appa­lachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It represented a long-term commitment to natural gas by joint developers Dominion Energy and Duke Energy. Now it won’t be built at all (see this news story).

In a press release announcing the news, Dominion made clear its assumption that pipelines are good things that should be quickly approved. Less obvious was the reason that didn’t happen this time: because activists successfully stopped the project, in part by repeatedly challenging it in court until the developers gave up. The press release also lamented that these legal challenges were brought against energy company practices backed by both Republican and Democratic presidents, as if such bipartisan support should give opponents pause. But many of the activists were local citizens who live in the pipeline’s proposed path. Their effort to stop it wasn’t about national politics or party—it was about their communities and their lives.