From Wild Virginia:
Fish and Wildlife Service Does a Rush Job on MVP Opinion –
Chooses to Ignore Inconvenient Evidence
On February 28, 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a Biological Opinion (BiOp) for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project. Biological Opinions are one step in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) review that is supposed to ensure that our rarest species are not driven closer to extinction by actions permitted by federal agencies. The newly-released BiOp for the MVP utterly fails to meet that requirement.
This BiOp claims that the MVP is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of three species designated as Endangered and three that are considered Threatened under the ESA. The Endangered Species include two fish, the Candy darter and Roanoke logperch, which rely on clean streams for their survival. The Service drew the same unsupported conclusions twice before and has chosen to stick with this judgement yet again, despite an abundance of contradictory evidence.
The release of the BiOp follows a “formal consultation period” in which the Service is supposed to gather “the best scientific and commercial data available” to support its decision. After formal consultation, federal regulations allow 45 days for the completion of the BiOp.
“Rather than use the time available to do the thorough review required, the Service rushed the decision, issuing it on the very day that formal consultation ended,” stated Wild Virginia’s Conservation Director, David Sligh. “It seems the agency was more interested in meeting the pipeline company’s schedule than protecting the precious species it’s supposed to be looking after,” he said.
In this third attempt to do its duty under the ESA, the Service consciously chose not to consider a large body of information supplied by the public,. That information shows that MVP’s plan to rush forward with construction will further harm our waters and further jeopardize the species at risk. Among the new document supplied to the Service is a Wild Virginia report, Mountain Valley Pipeline Pollution in Virginia Watersheds, which shows that nearly 1,500 pollution incidents have either directly harmed Virginia streams and wetlands or have caused imminent threats of pollution damage.
Instead of considering this kind of information, the agency relied on the corporation’s deeply flawed and incomplete data and analyses. Sligh stated: “These agency officials put the blinders on and chose again to ignore both real-world results of MVPs failure to protect our waters and the species, and expert reports the public gave them. In doing so, they abandoned their duties and betrayed the public. “And, of course, the kind of information we gave the Service was easily available to them, if they’d only done the work to find it and use it.”
It now falls to other federal agencies that must make new regulatory decisions about the MVP to decide whether they will rely on the Fish and Wildlife Service opinion or do their own duties. These include the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the U.S. Forest Service. “We can only hope and insist that those officials step up now – each has failed to do so before but it’s time for new leadership to see that those failures aren’t repeated,” Sligh said.