Brittany Patterson Published

Court Again Bars Mountain Valley Pipeline From Stream, River Construction

In this Thursday, May 3, 2018 photo, downed trees mark the route of the proposed Mountain Valley pipeline in Lindside, W.Va.

A federal appeals court has cemented a prohibition against construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline across streams, rivers and wetlands.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Monday issued the ruling that converted a temporary, administrative stay to a conventional stay. The construction moratorium will remain in place until the court decides a legal challenge brought by environmental groups over the pipeline’s reissued federal waterbody crossing permits.

The ruling came hours after the court heard oral arguments in the case.

Conservation groups, led by the Sierra Club and represented by Appalachian Mountain Advocates, asked the court to review the water crossing permits reissued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in late September. The groups argued that the federal agency failed to ensure waterbody crossings, under the newly issued permits, don’t cause harm to any other species.

The original Army Corps approvals were tossed by a federal appeals court in 2018.

The Fourth Circuit last month granted an emergency order to temporarily stop construction.

The ruling on Monday marks yet another setback for the 303-mile natural gas pipeline from developer EQT, which has been plagued by legal challenges. The pipeline, which is about 90 percent completed, goes through northwestern West Virginia and southern Virginia.

In the Mountain State it crosses Wetzel, Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Braxton, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Fayette, Summers, and Monroe counties. The multi-billion dollar project would carry 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations to markets on the East Coast.

Environmental opponents praised the decision.

“This decision will help ensure the pipeline doesn’t keep posing catastrophic threats to waterways that people and imperiled species depend on to survive,” said Jared Margolis, attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit conservation group headquartered in Arizona.

In a separate lawsuit, environmental groups are also challenging the legality around two additional newly reissued federal permits that address the project’s impacts on endangered species.