1 of 2 | The Supreme Court vacated challenges to the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The project was cleared in 2017, construction began a year later, but it's been hampered by challenges from environmental groups. The developer expects it to be completed by the end of the year. File photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
July 27 (UPI) -- Approved for construction in 2017, but beset by numerous environmental challenges, the Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for the construction of the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline.
The court in a brief, one-paragraph order suspended claims filed by environmental groups in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, located in Virginia, clearing the way for the completion of construction.
The Court of Appeals ordered a halt to the pipeline's construction earlier this month amid concerns about its planned path through the Jefferson National Forest. The 300-mile pipeline would run three miles through the preserve in Virginia.
Similar concerns created obstacles for oil pipelines such as Dakota Access and Keystone XL.
The Wilderness Society challenged provisions in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which suspended the federal debt ceiling recently 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 challenges.
Among the various challengers, The Wilderness Society said that language was unconstitutional, and the challenges should be allowed to be heard over the pipeline. The Supreme Court, however, vacated the lower court's ruling, allowing for construction to proceed.
"The Supreme Court has spoken and this decision to let construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline move forward again is the correct one," Sen. Joe Machin, a West Virginia Democrat said in a statement. "I am relieved that the highest court in the land has upheld the law Congress passed and the president signed."
Equitrans Midstream, the company behind the project, had appealed previous rulings, arguing it went against the "will and clear intent" of lawmakers and President Joe Biden.
Equitrans had no immediate comment on the Supreme Court's ruling. It said earlier this month, however, that it did expect the project to be completed by the end of the year at a total project cost of $6.6 billion.