The Mountain Valley Pipeline project, which has been championed by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has been stopped temporarily by a federal appeals court on Monday. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo
July 11 (UPI) -- A Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel ordered a halt to the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction in the Jefferson National Forest until the courts can take a closer look at a review petition.
Environmental groups had protested the Biden administration's approval of the natural gas pipeline through the national forest. The same court previously had turned back permits for the pipeline.
The pipeline is championed by Democrat and Senate Energy Chair Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., who is up for re-election in 2024. The 300-mile pipeline crosses three miles of the Jefferson National Forest.
That forest, combined with the George Washington Forest, is one of the biggest areas of public land in the eastern United States, covering Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky.
The Wilderness Society challenged provisions in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which suspended the federal debt ceiling to avoid a government default. Language in the act ordered federal agencies to issue all remaining permits to Mountain Valley in an effort to end the Fourth Circuit's jurisdiction to hear any new approval challenges.
The Wilderness Society said that language is unconstitutional, and the challenges should be allowed to be heard over the pipeline.
U.S. energy company Equitrans Midstream Corp. said it was considering appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"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," Equitrans said in a statement.
"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."
Equitrans argued that the court issued its decision before receiving a full briefing from the federal government and Mountain Valley, saying it was "particularly telling and demonstrates why congressional intervention was appropriate."