Washington, DC — Today, environmental organizations filed a petition for review in federal court challenging a recently issued new biological opinion (BiOp) and incidental take statement under the Endangered Species Act for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. A federal appeals court has already twice rejected the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s prior authorizations for the pipeline project.
Previously, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the agency failed to adequately analyze the project's environmental context when assessing the detrimental impacts to the Roanoke logperch and the candy darter, a species on the brink of extinction. In the rushed process to deliver the new biological opinion on the pipeline developer’s timeline, the Fish and Wildlife Service neglected critical public input regarding key deficiencies in the agency’s analysis.
This petition comes a week after the court invalidated a key water permit that would be needed to proceed with construction activities in West Virginia streams and wetlands. Without the West Virginia Clean Water Act section 401 certification, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can't allow construction in streams anywhere along the entire 304-mile project.
The petition was filed by lawyers from the Sierra Club and Appalachian Mountain Advocates, on behalf of Wild Virginia, Appalachian Voices, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Preserve Bent Mountain, Preserve Giles County, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club, and Center for Biological Diversity.
In response, Roberta Bondurant of Preserve Bent Mountain, a local member group of the POWHR Coalition, stated: “While disappointed that USFWS declined to consider critical new information, we’re not surprised by the apparent agency capitulation in issuing the Biological Opinion according to MVP’s desired timeline. For over eight years, MVP, an out of state LLC with no named employees, has repeatedly rushed recklessly into construction, wreaking havoc upon our land, waters and forests— promising disaster for imperiled species — and has avoided doing the work required for well-informed regulatory decision making and developer accountability.”
Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Director Patrick Grenter issued the following statement: “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued another flawed biological opinion, and admitted that it ignored expert analysis and additional public input. MVP is attempting to steer their pipeline through steep slopes and sensitive streams across Appalachia, and it is critical that every impact on those environments is considered. This pipeline has a long track record of throwing caution to the wind in allowing their activities to cause harmful and recurring water quality violations. By invalidating a deficient biological opinion, we would be one step closer to protecting these imperiled species and their habitats.”
“Construction of this fossil fuel nightmare has already harmed imperiled wildlife, but the Fish and Wildlife Service continues to ignore its duty to ensure that waterways and the species that rely on them are protected,” said Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s reckless and unlawful to allow this project to decimate more essential habitats and harm our climate.”
Peter Anderson, Virginia Policy Director for Appalachian Voices said: “We have no reason to believe the Mountain Valley Pipeline could be constructed in a way that would sufficiently mitigate impacts to listed species along the route. Yet the agency has continued to work on the developer’s timeline while failing to address legitimate public concerns.”
“The Fish and Wildlife Service has again betrayed the public interest, by making decisions that don’t acknowledge the harm the MVP has already created,” stated David Sligh, Conservation Director at Wild Virginia. “The Service’s action further threatens the very existence of some of our rarest and most sensitive species. In its rush to meet the corporation’s timeline, the agency chose to ignore important data and its review is fatally flawed.”
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.