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While Federal Court Dismisses Challenge to Mountain Valley Pipeline, One Judge Calls Congress Ramming This Project Through a Possible “harbinger of erosion not just to the environment, but to our republic”

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Bad news, but not a surprise…see below for a press release by Wild Virginia (along with other environmental groups opposed to the dirty, destructive Mountain Valley Pipeline boondoggle):

Federal Court Dismisses Challenges to Mountain Valley Pipeline

Today, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted motions by the federal government and Mountain Valley Pipeline to dismiss environmental groups’ pending legal challenges of recent federal authorizations of the project.

Specifically, the court dismissed an April 10 challenge to Endangered Species Act approvals for the Mountain Valley Pipeline unlawfully issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A separate case challenging the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management authorizations for the pipeline to cross the Jefferson National Forest was also dismissed.

On June 3, Congress passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act to prevent default on the nation’s debt. The act also included provisions directing federal agencies to issue any outstanding authorizations for MVP within 21 days and attempting to strip courts of jurisdiction over challenges to the legality of MVP’s permits. Following passage of the FRA, MVP and federal agencies filed motions to dismiss the pending cases.

Environmental groups argued that Congress usurped the judiciary’s role by attempting to dictate the outcome of pending litigation. The appeals court stayed the Fish and Wildlife Service, BLM and Forest Service authorizations, halting construction. MVP filed an emergency application to the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued an order lifting the stays while a 4th Circuit hearing on the motions to dismiss was underway.

The 4th Circuit acknowledged that the FRA’s MVP-specific provisions “sought to thwart the petitions by the environmental groups.” While concluding that the court was required to dismiss the cases, one judge noted that the Mountain Valley Pipeline provisions of the FRA “threaten[] to disturb the balance of power between co-equal branches of government,” and another questioned whether they are “a harbinger of erosion not just to the environment, but to our republic.” In response to accusations that the 4th Circuit had prevented timely construction of the pipeline, one judge suggested that “[a] contrary view might be that the pipeline could be finished today had MVP and [the government] followed all of the necessary laws and regulations to get it done.”

Lawyers from Sierra Club, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and Center for Biological Diversity represented Appalachian Voices, Wild Virginia, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Preserve Giles  County, Preserve Bent Mountain (a chapter of Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League), West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Sierra Club, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Center for Biological Diversity in the Endangered Species Act case. Lawyers from the Southern Environmental Law Center represented The Wilderness Society in the Jefferson National Forest cases.

Statement by Roberta Bondurant, Preserve Bent Mountain:

“We are profoundly disappointed in this result under a rider to the debt ceiling legislation. A politically powerful litigant sought special treatment from its allies in Congress because it couldn’t comply with our nation’s environmental laws. MVP’s Dirty Deal is a menace to democracy, to Appalachia and to the planet.”

Statement by Donna Pitt, Preserve Giles County Coordinator:

“The ill-advised enactment of Section 324 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act lays bare the danger we are in if we continue to allow ourselves to be governed by the self-serving needs of fossil fuel corporations. By fiat and through force, this failing project has been rescued in the name of profit alone. We stand together with our neighbors and future generations who will bear the costs of this dangerous outcome.”

Statement by Ben Jealous, Executive Director for the Sierra Club:

“It has been clear from the outset that the proposal to construct this pipeline across the steep slopes and sensitive streams of Appalachia will threaten communities and harm imperiled species and their habitats. And yet, the agency once again issued a flawed authorization, which, coupled with congressional interference, all but assures the harmful impacts the Mountain Valley Pipeline will have on endangered species on the brink of extinction will be overlooked.  Congress’s action apparently gives the Mountain Valley Pipeline a free pass to edge out vulnerable species and steamroll communities in its path.”

Statement by Jessica Sims, Virginia Field Coordinator for Appalachian Voices:

“Mountain Valley Pipeline is a dangerous, destructive project that repeatedly failed in attempts to obtain federal authorizations that could withstand legal scrutiny until it convinced its friends in Congress to intervene. We will not give up our efforts to protect the communities suffering the consequences of this unnecessary project.”

Statement by David Sligh, Conservation Director for Wild Virginia:

“The builders and political backers of the MVP could not get this destructive project across the finish line by following the rules that are supposed to apply to all projects. The reason is simple. The pipeline cannot be built across these valuable and sensitive landscapes in a way that upholds our historic laws, including the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service failed in its duties three times, so Congress and the president have attempted to give the MVP a get-out-of-jail-free card on its responsibility to protect our rare and precious species. We will not stop exposing the dangers and damages from this project and insisting that it be canceled.”

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