UPDATE: July 28, 2023: The contentious Mountain Valley Pipeline project can move ahead after the Supreme Court struck down orders on Thursday from a lower court that suspended construction in a national forest in Virginia. The move clears the way for the methane gas project to be finished and begin operating by the end of the year as planned.
The Supreme Court’s brief order was handed down while the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was in the midst of a hearing on the project, according to Politico. There were no noted dissents.
Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, the environmental group suing to halt construction, vowed in a Thursday press release to “exhaust every effort to stop it."
- A federal appeals court on Monday ordered construction to stop on the Mountain Valley Pipeline in the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia while it reviews environmental groups’ most recent challenge to the controversial methane gas project.
- The lawsuit, filed by The Wilderness Society, argues that Congress violated the separation of powers doctrine when it passed a law in May expediting the $6.6 billion project’s completion. The stay affects a roughly 3-mile stretch of the 300-mile pipeline.
- The federal debt ceiling agreement, the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, included language to issue all remaining permits for the pipeline and strip the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of its jurisdiction to hear legal challenges of the approvals. The three-judge panel on the 4th Circuit has previously rejected permits for the project.
There is a second request for a stay pending in the 4th Circuit that if granted, would affect a much larger portion of the pipeline. A coalition of environmental groups contests the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s finding that endangered species would not be jeopardized by the buried pipeline.
At the end of June, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the project the final approval needed to resume construction. Work was expected to resume shortly after and be finished by the end of the year. When complete, the pipeline will move methane gas from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
Lead developer and operator Equitrans Midstream Corp. released a statement today expressing disappointment in the 4th Circuit’s decision.
“We are evaluating all legal options, which include filing an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Unless this decision is promptly reversed, it would jeopardize Mountain Valley’s ability to complete construction by year-end 2023," Equitrans said.