Press Release

Federal lawsuit challenges approval of Cumberland Pipeline

Press release from the Southern Environmental Law Center, Sierra Club, and Appalachian Voices
For immediate release: April 30, 2024

Contact: Eric Hilt, 615-622-1199,

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of the Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices, has filed a lawsuit challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision to approve the 32-mile Cumberland Pipeline — a dangerous and unnecessary methane gas pipeline that will do long-lasting damage to the climate, Tennessee Valley Authority customers, local waterways, and nearby communities.

The Cumberland Pipeline would cut through communities in Dickson, Houston, and Stewart Counties in Middle Tennessee. The pipeline’s sole purpose would be to serve the proposed Cumberland Gas Plant. FERC commissioners approved the pipeline project in January after months of pressure from TVA and Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP), the company that would build the proposed pipeline.

“FERC’s decision to greenlight this project ignored the harm the pipeline and gas plant would inflict on Middle Tennessee and beyond,” SELC Senior Attorney Spencer Gall said. “FERC is supposed to safeguard the public interest, not rubberstamp unnecessary pipeline projects that will harm our communities, hurt the climate, and contribute to higher power bills.”

The proposed Cumberland Pipeline would cut through dozens of streams, including tributaries of Middle Tennessee’s Harpeth River, which is an extremely popular destination for kayakers, anglers, and paddlers. At many of these water crossings, the pipeline company is planning to use explosives to blast through streambeds in order to construct the pipeline across them.

“Sinking ratepayer dollars into unnecessary, damaging, and dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure instead of clean, reliable, and cheaper renewable energy is a bad deal for working families in our region,” said Bri Knisley, Director of Public Power Campaigns at Appalachian Voices. “Both FERC and TVA need to prioritize meeting the needs of communities — not gas corporations.”

Both the Cumberland plant and pipeline are part of TVA’s multi-billion-dollar gas spending spree, and the federal agency has already raised power rates in part because of its massive fossil fuel buildout. FERC’s approval of the Cumberland Pipeline will leave families across the Tennessee Valley on the hook for paying for the project through higher power bills.

Gas pipelines also leak huge amounts of methane — an especially potent climate-warming gas — into the atmosphere. Recent studies have shown that pipelines are leaking several times more methane than previously estimated.

“FERC can’t weigh the climate impact of this pipeline until FERC knows how much carbon and methane pollution is really on the ledger. Upstream, downstream — it’s all connected,” said Dr. Cris Corley, Chair of the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Gas pipelines like the proposed Cumberland Pipeline are inherently risky infrastructure. In 1992, a pipeline explosion in Dickson County injured five people, destroyed three homes, and burned 400 acres of farmland. Just last year, an explosion at a gas pipeline facility run by TGP in nearby Hickman County forced around 200 families to evacuate.

The petition, which was filed on Monday, asks the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review and set aside the FERC order approving the pipeline.


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