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BREAKING: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects Petition for Review on Mountain Valley Pipeline Project

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I can’t say that I’m happy about this in any way.

A federal appeals court has upheld Virginia’s water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, preserving a major milestone for the controversial project.

In a decision Wednesday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by the Sierra Club and other conservation groups that the State Water Control Board erred in December when it found a “reasonable assurance” that streams and wetlands would not be harmed by the 303-mile natural gas pipeline.

See the full ruling, below. Key points are:

  • The petition for review is denied “because we conclude that the State Agencies did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in issuing the December 401 Certification.
  • The court says the criticism by environmental groups is “unfounded” that “the State Agencies erred by not including the impact of activities covered by NWP 12 within the scope of their supplemental 401 process.”
  • The court sees no purpose we would serve by stepping in and second-guessing the analytical methods Virginia deemed appropriate to provide it with reasonable assurance that its water quality would be protected.
  • The court finds that “State Agencies vigorously participated at every stage of the decision-making process and did not issue their final 401 certificate until they had added all of the protections that they concluded were needed to give them reasonable assurance that state water quality would be protected. This is exactly how the system was designed to work.”
  • The court writes that “with large construction projects…unexpected problems will rise, leading at least to minor, short-term issues. Were Virginia’s policy interpreted as rigidly as Petitioners suggest, no project affecting Tier 2 waters could ever be approved without an economic/social development need analysis”
  • The court writes that “Petitioners do not suggest any reason why it was arbitrary for the State Agencies to assume that those same methods used for years to prevent large construction projects from harming water quality would not continue to be effective on an even larger scale.”
  • Finally, on a more positive note, the court does explain that “FERC’s issuance of the certificate is the subject of a petition for review pending in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. FERC’s issuance of the certificate is not a subject of the petition before us.”

So that’s the news…not to my liking at all, but that’s the deal at the moment.

UPDATE: See below for a couple comments by Jon Sokolow, both of which I think are very much on point.

1/ This much is clear from today’s 4th Circuit decision denying one challenge to the Mt. Valley Pipeline. The court said Va has the power to stop these pipelines. now OWNS this problem, lock, stock & barrel. His decision. His legacy

2/2 can no long blame others for his failure to stand up to and his pathetic enviro standards. Virginia’s future is in his hands. Which side are you on ?