It’s Been an Awful Week for the Fossil-Fuel Industry

Bill McKibben, in The New Yorker, discusses why it’s been an awful week for the fossil-fuel industry.

t’s been a truly awful few days for the fossil-fuel industry, which is another way of saying that it’s been an unexpectedly good few days for planet Earth: a trio of sweeping and unlikely victories have demonstrated the depth of great organizing and the increasing weakness of the industry’s hold on our political system.

First, on Sunday, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy—enormous Southeast utilities—announced that they were scrapping plans for the Atlantic Coast natural-gas pipeline, despite having invested $3.4 billion in the project. They’d actually won a big Supreme Court ruling just weeks earlier, giving them the right to lay the pipeline beneath the Appalachian Trail—but that, executives from the two companies said in a joint statement, wasn’t going to be enough. “This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States. Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged.” Translation: they were evidently rattled by a court order earlier this spring in the granddaddy of all pipeline battles; a Montana federal court ruled in April that the Trump Administration couldn’t simply waive environmental laws to help the backers of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline may have had Supreme Court permission to traverse the Appalachian Trail, but the companies must have realized that they were going to face litigation at every stream crossing along the route.

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