Appeals court orders Mountain Valley Pipeline to halt construction again

Published: Jul. 11, 2023 at 7:54 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A federal appeals court in Richmond has ordered the Mountain Valley Pipeline to stop construction, while the court considers the latest challenges by pipeline opponents.

Twice in the last two days, the court has issued stays in cases challenging key permits for the pipeline.

This follows recent action by Congress to expedite the project and limit judicial review. And MVP is threatening to appeal the rulings to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I think most folks thought that meant the end of all those challenges to the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” said Roanoke attorney John Fishwick, “but yesterday the court of appeals said no, not so fast.”

Fishwick is not involved in the latest Mountain Valley Pipeline litigation, but as a former U.S. Attorney, he has extensive experience in the federal courts, and says he has been following recent developments involving the Mountain Valley Pipeline with interest.

While pipeline opponents have argued the recent action by Congress to expedite the project and limit the court’s jurisdiction violates the separation of powers enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, Fishwick said he’s not optimistic they will prevail.

“I think we’ve seen an unusual turn of events with what Congress did, where they tucked this special treatment for MVP into this bill, but nevertheless at the end of the day the law of the land will be what Congress passed,” Fishwick said. “And I think the United States Supreme Court at the end of the day if asked will say that the Court of Appeals cannot hear this case.”

Opponents of the pipeline praised the court’s action.

“All we’ve ever asked is that our basic environmental protection laws, including the Endangered Species Act, be enforced,” said David Sligh, Conservation Director of the group Wild Virginia. “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.”

The Mountain Valley Pipeline released a statement saying the appeals court defied the clear intent of a bipartisan Congress and exceeded its authority. The company said it is evaluating its legal options including an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The company said unless the orders to stop work are reversed quickly, they could jeopardize MVP’s plan to complete the project by the end of the year.

Following is the statement the company released following Monday’s stay:

“We are disappointed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit’s remarkable decision to grant a one-sentence stay halting all construction in the Jefferson National Forest with no explanation. The Court’s decision defies the will and clear intent of a bipartisan Congress and this Administration in passing legislation to expedite completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, which was deemed to be in the national interest. We believe the Court also exceeded its authority, as Congress expressly and plainly removed its jurisdiction. Further, the fact that the Court issued the stay prior to receiving full briefing from the federal government and Mountain Valley is particularly telling and demonstrates why Congressional intervention was appropriate. We are evaluating all legal options, which include filing an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Unless this decision is promptly reversed, it would jeopardize Mountain Valley’s ability to complete construction by year-end 2023.”