U.S. Supreme Court Reinstates Major Gas Pipeline in Huge Blow to Environmental Groups

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a lower court ruling from earlier in the month that blocked construction of the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) from moving forward.

In a brief, unsigned order issued on Thursday morning, the Supreme Court vacated the July 10 stay orders from the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, during which the lower court sided with the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs, environmental groups Appalachian Voices and Wilderness Society, had sued to stop pipeline construction. 

Bipartisan lawmakers opposed the ruling by the 4th Circuit, the Biden administration, and the fossil fuel industry.

“Whatever benefit respondents or the court of appeals might believe would be gained by having the agencies again reconsider the challenged actions, Congress has determined that further reconsideration is unwarranted and has prioritized MVP’s ‘timely’ completion over interests addressed by any other federal statutes,” wrote the Department of Justice (DOJ) in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court last week.

“That judgment is for Congress alone,” continued the brief.

The brief by the DOJ was one of numerous briefs filed in the case. Opponents of the ruling by the 4th Circuit pointed to the Fiscal Responsibility Act, a recent bipartisan debt limit bill signed by President Joe Biden in early June, which green-lighted all permits for the MVP project.

The debt limit bill also shifted judicial review jurisdiction from the 4th Circuit to the U.S. District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. The 4th Circuit has a long track record of siding with environmental groups.

Days after the ruling by the lower court on July 14, the pipeline developer asked the Supreme Court to vacate the stay. The high court gave plaintiffs until next Tuesday to file a response.

“The Fourth Circuit judges are not supreme rules, and lawful orders issued by the legislative and executive branches must be followed,” said Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania, GOP Chief Deputy Whip. “Congress was well within its power to restart the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction and usher in a new era of energy independence for the region.”

“Instead of halting the pipeline, I urge the Supreme Court to plug up the ludicrous activism seeping out of the lower court so American families can enjoy lower energy costs, substantial land royalties, and most importantly — law and order in America,” added Reschenthaler.

The representative led a group of seven fellow representatives and Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia in filing a brief supporting the MVP project’s permits.

Senator Joe Manchin played a crucial role in securing the pipeline

Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia played a role in ensuring the pipeline in the Fiscal Responsibility Act and filed his own amicus brief in the case on July 18. 

“The Supreme Court has spoken, and this decision to let construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline move forward again is the correct one. I am relieved that the highest court in the land has upheld the law Congress passed and the President signed,” said Manchin in a Thursday statement. 

A large labor union, the Laborers’ International Union of North America; the American Gas Association; American Petroleum Institute; the Chamber of Commerce; GOP West Virginia Governor Jim Justice; and counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives all filed briefs supporting the pipeline.

According to the pipeline’s developer, Equitrans Midstream, MVP will transport around two billion cubic feet per day of natural gas from West Virginia to consumers in the South Atlantic and Mid-Atlantic. The pipeline is projected to generate $10 million in new tax revenue for Virginia, $40 million in new tax revenue for West Virginia, and up to $250 million in royalties for landowners in West Virginia.