Construction of the Mountain View Pipeline (MVP), a proposed 330-mile project stretching through the Appalachian mountains, was halted this month after the permits allowing the development to cross through the Jefferson National Forest were called into question.
The MVP is designed to transport 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day from shale basins in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia to the U.S. Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.
Developers of the pipeline, which began construction in February, had acquired permits from both the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Agriculture Department’s Forest Service for the 3.5 mile right of way through federal land.
However, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an August 3 stop order after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with opponents of the pipeline and invalidated the clearance given by the BLM and US Forest Service (USFS).
The court had found that the USFS had abruptly dropped their concerns about erosion and sediment damage inflicted in Jefferson National Forest. Additionally, the BLM had ignored the standard dictates which would restrict pipeline construction to the utility right-of-way.
“American citizens understandably place their trust in the Forest Service to protect and preserve this country’s forests, and they deserve more than silent acquiescence to a pipeline company’s justification for upending large swaths of national forestland,” Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote in the ruling.
Thacker was one of three judges on a panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals who ruled unanimously to vacate the permits.
“Citizens also trust the Bureau of Land Management to prevent undue degradation to public lands,” Thacker continued.
The federal land accounts for only one percent of the total length, but the decision made by the Fourth Circuit Appellate Court calls the decisions and transparency of the government bureaus into question.
When issuing its stop order, FERC tried to paint it differently.
“There is no reason to believe that the Forest Service or the Army Corps of Engineers, as the land managing agencies, or the BLM, as the federal rights of grantor, will not be able to comply with the Court’s instructions and to ultimately issue new right-of-way grants that satisfy the Court’s requirements,” FERC noted in its stop order.
Half of the hired labor force for the MVP has already returned to work to complete the stretches of pipeline that have already broken ground, Mountain View Pipeline, LLC announced last week.
The construction will continue on roughly 77 miles of pipeline, reaching into West Virginia and away from the Jefferson National Forest. 80 percent of trees along this stretch of land had already been cut down, and measures to prevent soil erosion had not yet been taken at the time that the stop order was enacted.
According to FERC, to walk away from the project at its current stage would “result in significant areas being subject to erosion and soil movement for an indeterminate period, possibly negatively affecting plant and wildlife habitat and adjacent water bodies.”