The Mountain Valley Pipeline has hit more legal snags after court decisions on July 10 and July 11 halted construction, possibly pushing completion of the pipeline into next year.
The first motion, made yesterday by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, stopped construction on a three-mile stretch that runs through the Jefferson National Forest.
The second decision, made today, is a stay of the biological opinion and incidental take statement under the endangered species act, which allowed the pipeline to initally proceed. A biological opinion analyzes the impact on animals designated under the Endangered Species Act.
Opponents of the pipeline argue that the pipeline could put imperiled species, including songbirds like the candy darter and Roanoke Logperch, in harms way.
In a statement to WOAY, a spokesperson for the Equitrans Midstream, the company that owns the pipeline, criticized the ruling.
“We are beyond disappointed with the two recent decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit regarding the MVP project – the first of which stayed construction in the Jefferson National Forest and the second of which stayed MVP’s Biological Opinion, each in a single sentence and with no explanation on an authorization issued by a federal agency for the third time,” the statement said. “The Court’s decisions defy the will and clear intent of a bipartisan Congress and this Administration in passing legislation to expedite completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, which was deemed to be in the national interest. Additionally, we believe the Court exceeded its authority, as Congress expressly and plainly removed its jurisdiction.”
Equitrans Midstream confirmed that the mountain valley pipeline will pursue legal options, including an emergency appeal to the supreme court, and said that the ruling could delay the completion of the pipeline.
On the other hand, opponents of the pipeline praised the court’s ruling.
“All we’ve ever asked is that our basic environmental protection laws, including the Endangered Species Act, be enforced. Federal officials have not yet lived up to that basic requirement on this project and the courts have had to step in. Construction on this harmful project must be ended now,” David Sligh, Wild Virginia’s Conservation Director and one of the petitioners of the court, said.
Senator Joe Manchin critized the ruling, saying that the court shouldn’t have jurisdiction over the Mountain Valley Pipeline after the passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023.
““The law passed by Congress and signed by the President is clear — the 4th Circuit no longer has jurisdiction over Mountain Valley Pipeline’s construction permits. This new order halting construction is unlawful, and regardless of your position on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, it should alarm every American when a court ignores the law,” Manchin said.