On April 7, Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile partly constructed pipeline that would carry highly pressurized fracked natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia, was in federal court again, this time in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  After losing a string of cases in the Richmond based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, MVP was hoping for a more friendly reception in D.C. for a project that has been in the works since 2014.

It had been a brutal four months for this ill-fated project, which is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. The repeated delays are the result of poor construction practices and MVP’s arrogance in trying to shortcut permitting processes. With erosion and sediment control failures, and the resulting muddy runoff from construction sites, MVP been fined millions of dollars in multiple enforcement actions in Virginia and West Virginia. Numerous court decisions have thrown out Trump era permits that themselves were the result of shoddy politicized reviews.

In December, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board, by a 6-1 vote, refused to issue a permit for a compressor station for MVP Southgate, a 75-mile pipeline that would extend MVP from Virginia to North Carolina. Previously, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality had twice refused to issue a permit for Southgate itself.

On January 25, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit threw out—for the second time—permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for MVP to cross the Jefferson National Forest. The court concluded that those agencies failed to adequately consider sedimentation and erosion impacts caused during construction.

One week later, on February 3, the Fourth Circuit concluded—again for the second time—that the Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act, this time with respect to two endangered fish—the Roanoke logperch and the candy darter—when it issued its 2020 Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement for MVP.  As to a third endangered species, the Indiana bat, the court recommended that the Fish and Wildlife Service explain why it “anticipates no effects to the bat from clearing more than 1,000 acres of suitable but unoccupied summer habitat.”  It also suggested that there may be other deficiencies in the agency’s earlier determinations.

Read more at Common Dreams, published April 12, 2022 by Jon Sokolow.


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