Federal Court Throws Out Another Key Permit for Mountain Valley Pipeline

February 11, 2022: On February 3rd, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit invalidated the biological opinion and incidental take statement issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The court found that the agency failed to adequately analyze the project's environmental context–including the impacts of climate change–when assessing the pipeline’s impacts on two endangered fish species, the Roanoke logperch and the candy darter.

The court concluded that “if a species is already speeding toward the extinction cliff, an agency may not press on the gas.” Both the logperch and the darter are extremely sensitive to the sediment pollution that results from constructing a massive pipeline over steep, highly erodible slopes in Appalachia and through the region’s rivers and streams. The court's decision means that construction should not move forward along the 304-mile pipeline route unless and until the pipeline obtains a valid approval.

ELP attorney Elly Benson argued this Endangered Species Act case on behalf of a coalition of conservation organizations, including Wild Virginia, Appalachian Voices, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Preserve Giles County, Preserve Bent Mountain, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Defenders of Wildlife, and Center for Biological Diversity. Appalachian Mountain Advocates also represented the petitioners.

The decision came nine days after the court invalidated the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management decisions authorizing the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross the Jefferson National Forest. That case was argued by ELP attorney Nathan Matthews.