Atlantic Coast Pipeline secures another key federal permit

FILE - In a Tuesday June 6, 2017 file photo, hydrologist William K. Jones, walks up a mountain near the route of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Bolar, Va. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate natural gas pipelines, released its final environmental impact statement Friday, July 21, 2017 for the proposed 600-mile (965-kilometer) pipeline, which has broad support from political and business leaders but is staunchly opposed by environmentalists and many affected landowners. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline has cleared another key regulatory hurdle.

The U.S. Forest Service granted approval Friday for the natural gas pipeline to run through the George Washington National Forest and Monongahela National Forest.

About 21 miles (33 kilometers) of the 600-mile-long (965 kilometers) project are located on National Forest Service lands, including where it will cross the Appalachian Trail.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission signed off last month on the approximately $5 billion project that would run through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Key state-level water permits are still pending.

Pipeline spokesman Aaron Ruby says the Forest Service decision is a major step toward final approval later this year.

Environmental groups criticized the approval and some said they would challenge it.

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