The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Dan Radmacher, Appalachian Voices,
Morgan Caplan, The Sierra Club,
Jared Margolis, Center for Biological Diversity,

Federal Court Stays Mountain Valley Pipeline’s Biological Opinion Again

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily halted the Mountain Valley Pipeline today, issuing a stay of the biological opinion and incidental take statement under the Endangered Species Act. The massive pipeline project threatens imperiled species like the candy darter and Roanoke logperch.

The court’s order means construction should not move forward along any portion of the 304-mile pipeline route as lawsuits challenging it continue. The court has twice rejected the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s authorizations for the pipeline project, finding that the agency failed to adequately analyze the project’s potential environmental harms.

The federal appeals court also granted a stay Monday of the U.S. Forest Service’s decision allowing 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.

“This decision shows that corporations with deep pockets and political influence aren’t above the law,” said Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The court stepped up to protect imperiled wildlife and sensitive streams from a disastrous project that should never be built.”

“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,” said Peter Anderson, Virginia policy director at Appalachian Voices. “We are pleased that the 4th Circuit seems to recognize that Congress overreached with its Mountain Valley Pipeline provisions in the Fiscal Responsibility Act.”

“Congress’s unprecedented end run around the courts attempted to forgo proper checks and balances and declare the sinking ship that is the Mountain Valley Pipeline a winner,” said Ben Jealous, executive director of Sierra Club. “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 Mountain Valley Pipeline to halt all construction along the entire route.”

“This ill-conceived pipeline poses serious threats to animals, plants, and people,” said Anne Havemann, general counsel for Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “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.”

“All we’ve ever asked is that our basic environmental protection laws, including the Endangered Species Act, be enforced,” said David Sligh, conservation director at 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 motion to stay the biological opinion was filed by lawyers from the Sierra Club, Appalachian Mountain Advocates and the 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 the Center for Biological Diversity.

Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Fish and Wildlife Service claimed the court lacked jurisdiction to issue the stay under provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act about the pipeline. In issuing the stay, the 4th Circuit appears to have rejected that argument.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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