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 which is expected later this year.
Environmental groups criticized the approval and some said they plan to challenge it.