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Updated: Pipeline opponents sue to reverse Forest Service decision

Photo credit: WDBJ7
Photo credit: WDBJ7(WHSV)
Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 12:22 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have filed suit to reverse a Forest Service decision allowing construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on 3.5 miles of the Jefferson National Forest.

On Monday, a coalition of conservation groups said they were petitioning the federal court of appeals to strike the Forest Service decision.

“The Forest Service and BLM bowed to political pressure and rushed these decisions,” said David Sligh, Conservation Director of Wild Virginia. “They failed in their most basic duty, to rely on facts and science to make decisions that fully protect our national treasures.”

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A spokesperson for the Mountain Valley Pipeline released the following statement Monday, after the U.S. Forest Service released a decision allowing the controversial natural gas pipeline to cross 3.5 miles of the Jefferson National Forest.

“The U.S. Forest Service posted a record of decision regarding MVP’s routing through the Jefferson National Forest, which the project team is currently reviewing. This decision by the USFS is one element of the ROW approval process, and the information will now be reviewed by the Bureau of Land Management and the FERC, the timeline for which is uncertain. Upon approval, and before construction would begin in the Jefferson National Forest, we will also need to consider other relevant factors, such as weather and availability of government oversight. Currently, MVP is continuing with its construction activities outside the JNF, within the constraints of winter weather conditions and in compliance with all environmental regulations and guidelines. In addition, the team remains focused on maintaining the project’s enhanced erosion & sedimentation controls that have been effectively put in place. MVP remains confident in its targeted full in-service date of late 2021.”

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released its decision updating an environmental analysis that allows the construction of Mountain Valley Pipeline on 3.5 miles of the Jefferson National Forest.

The USDA Forest Service issued a final Record of Decision that amends the Jefferson National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) to allow the Mountain Valley Pipeline project to move forward.

The report, according to USDA, “redeems the Forest Service’s commitment to ensure the pipeline minimizes impacts and meets standards for sustainability and conservation of natural resources on the national forests.”

Click here to read the fill Record of Decision.

The Record of Decision modifies certain standards in the Forest Plan to accommodate the pipeline construction and requires measures to minimize environmental impacts, according to the USDA. The Forest Service will also provide a letter of concurrence for the MVP Project to the Bureau of Land Management.

Mountain Valley, however, is not authorized to undertake activities related to construction on national forest lands until the company has obtained all Federal and State authorizations outstanding for the entire project. The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for approving pipelines that cross federal lands under the jurisdiction of two or more federal agencies but must have the concurrence of the involved agencies.

USDA says this final report addresses new information and changed circumstances, such as new federally-listed threatened and endangered species and critical habitat designations, as well as the Fourth Circuit Court’s 2018 ruling vacating the BLM’s Right-of-Way and the Forest Service’s Forest Plan amendment. In addition, according to USDA, the report considers erosion, sedimentation, and water quality effects, and applies the Planning Rule requirements for soil, riparian resources, and threatened and endangered species to the Forest Plan amendments.

For more information on this Record of Decision, visit the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests website

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