WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will consider reinstating a permit that was tossed out by a lower court that would allow construction of a natural gas pipeline through two national forests, including parts of the Appalachian Trail.

The justices said Friday they will hear appeals filed by energy companies that want to build the 605-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Trump administration, which initially approved the project.

The federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, ruled in December that the U.S. Forest Service has no power to authorize the crossing of the popular trail and had “abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources” when it approved the pipeline crossing the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests, as well as a right-of-way across the Appalachian Trial.

The pipeline, proposed in 2014 by Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and other energy companies, would originate in West Virginia and run through parts of Virginia and North Carolina.

Under plans for the project, a 0.1-mile segment of the pipeline would cross more than 600 feet beneath the Appalachian Trail.

The project has been mired in legal challenges by environmental and conservation groups. Construction has been halted since December.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, which successfully challenged the Forest Service permit before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the appeal by the pipeline’s developers “doesn’t mean Dominion wins this case.”

“The court’s decision to hear this case doesn’t affect any of the multiple other problems that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has,” said Greg Buppert, a senior attorney with the center.

“I think the most important one is the fact that (the pipeline) is not necessary. Dominion and Duke are claiming we need it to run power plants, and that’s not supported by the evidence we now know about the demand for power in Virginia and North Carolina.”

Pipeline spokesman Aaron Ruby disputed that, saying communities in eastern North Carolina and the Hampton Roads region in Virginia are experiencing natural gas shortages.

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