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Vermont Leads Coalition of States Asking U.S. Supreme Court to Protect the Appalachian Trail

January 23, 2020

CONTACT:    Eleanor Spottswood, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3171

Attorney General Donovan took the lead in filing an amicus brief at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of thirteen states, plus the District of Columbia, asserting that oil and gas pipelines may not cross the Appalachian Trail in national forests. Congress exempted the National Park System when they otherwise broadly allowed oil and gas pipelines to pass over federal land. The National Park System consists of America’s most spectacular natural resources, including the Appalachian Trail. The case currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, presents the question of whether the U.S. Forest Service may grant rights-of-way through lands crossed by the Appalachian Trail within national forests.

“The Appalachian Trail is an incredible resource for Vermont and the East Coast,” Attorney General Donovan said. “It is an essential part of our state’s culture and heritage, and it brings people and businesses to our small towns. It must be protected.”

Preserving the Appalachian Trail as part of the National Park System benefits Vermont. Vermont’s Long Trail inspired the Appalachian Trail, and the Appalachian Trail is co-located with the Long Trail throughout the Green Mountain National Forest. Two million people visit the Appalachian Trail every year, spending between $125 and $168 million to do so. The Appalachian Trail, which runs along the ridges of the Appalachian mountain range from Georgia to Maine, protects watersheds that provide drinking water to more than 10 percent of the American population. New research confirms that the Appalachian Trail and other National Parks provide significant mental and physical health benefits to those who use them.

In addition, new oil and gas pipelines are not the only options for growing state economies. States have already committed to increased reliance on renewable energy over fossil fuels like natural gas—resulting in job growth, improvements to the environment, and improvements to human health. Vermont already produces 99.7 percent of its in-state electricity generation from renewable sources. “Vermont is a leader in renewable energy,” Attorney General Donovan said. “I am proud that we can provide an example of the benefits of renewable energy to the Supreme Court.”

Joining Vermont on the amicus brief are the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the amicus brief is available here.