Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit issued a stay of the biological opinion and incidental take statement under the Endangered Species Act for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The court’s order staying these authorizations means that construction should not move forward along any portion of the 304-mile pipeline route. The federal appeals court has already twice rejected the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s prior authorizations for the pipeline project, finding that the agency failed to adequately analyze the project’s environmental context when assessing the detrimental impacts to the Roanoke logperch and the candy darter, a species on the brink of extinction.
Yesterday, the federal court also granted a stay of the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to allow the pipeline to be constructed through the Jefferson National Forest while the court considers The Wilderness Society’s challenge to that decision. The Wilderness Society is represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
The motion to stay the biological opinion was filed by lawyers from the Sierra Club, Appalachian Mountain Advocates and Center for Biological Diversity on behalf of Appalachian Voices, Wild Virginia, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Preserve Bent Mountain, Preserve Giles County, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity. Mountain Valley Pipeline and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service argued to the court that it lacked jurisdiction to issue the stay under provisions inserted into the Fiscal Responsibility Act about the pipeline. In issuing the stay, the 4th Circuit appears to have rejected that argument.
The following are statements from the petitioners:
Statement by Virginia Policy Director Peter Anderson of Appalachian Voices:
“This stay is necessary to prevent the irreparable harm that would be caused by allowing Mountain Valley Pipeline to resume construction while important legal issues are decided. We are pleased that the 4th Circuit seems to recognize that Congress overreached with its Mountain Valley Pipeline provisions in the Fiscal Responsibility Act.”
Statement by Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous:
“Congress’s unprecedented end run around the courts attempted to forgo proper checks and balances and declare the sinking ship that is the MVP a winner. This, as we know, was wrong from the start. Congress cannot mandate that federal regulators throw caution to the wind — environmental laws are more than just mere suggestions, and must be adhered to. We expect MVP to halt all construction along the entire route.”
Statement of Anne Havemann, General Counsel, Chesapeake Climate Action Network:
“This ill-conceived pipeline poses serious threats to animals, plants, and people. This is the third time this court has found fatal flaws in Mountain Valley’s Endangered Species Act permit. Regulators that are supposed to protect the environment have once again failed and construction should be halted along the entire route.”
Statement of David Sligh, Wild Virginia’s Conservation Director:
“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. ”
Statement of Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity:
“This decision shows that corporations with deep pockets and political influence aren’t above the law. The court stepped up to protect imperiled wildlife and sensitive streams from a disastrous project that should never be built.”
Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. Founded in 2002, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. For more information, visit www.chesapeakeclimate.org