News | June 20, 2023

What you need to know about the fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline

The path of the embattled Mountain Valley Pipeline runs more than 300 miles from West Virginia into Virginia with a proposed extension into North Carolina, including this portion cutting through the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia. (@Mason Cummings/The Wilderness Society)

The fight to stop completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline has been one filled with uncertainties, delays, and Appalachian communities once again subjected to the threat of a pipeline.  

Earlier this month, the future of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, or MVP, seemingly became clearer as The Fiscal Responsibility Act ratified all issued permits and mandated issuing another needed to complete the pipeline, allowing it to cut through the Jefferson National Forest on the border of West Virginia and Virginia. In doing so, the pipeline would irreversibly scar public lands, leave waterways full of sediment, and expose residents to threats from explosive leaks. To build its project across this public land, the pipeline company was required to obtain approvals from the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. 

The Jefferson National Forest. (@ Mason Cummings / The Wilderness Society)

Now, environmental groups are saying, “Not so fast.”  

Late yesterday, on behalf of The Wilderness Society, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a brief opposing motions to dismiss from the federal agencies and Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC in two related cases. These lawsuits pre-date passage of Section 324, the MVP rider to the debt ceiling deal. 

The Wilderness Society and SELC argue that the attempt by Congress and the Biden administration to block these lawsuits violates important separation of powers principles and is unconstitutional.  

“This is a critically important fight to take on,” said SELC Staff Attorney Spencer Gall. “After years of faulty permits that haven’t withstood judicial scrutiny, MVP asked Congress for a free pass from the laws that every other gas pipeline in the country must comply with. We absolutely don’t want the MVP rider to encourage other ill-conceived fossil-fuel projects to run to Congress in the future.” 

At the same time that The Wilderness Society and SELC filed their response, lawyers from the Sierra Club, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and Center for Biological Diversity filed a companion response to identical motions in another MVP case on behalf of ten environmental groups. 

Here’s what other Virginia office and regional staff members have to say: 

Sarah Francisco, Virginia office director

“SELC is sticking with this case and we are not going to abandon viable legal arguments against these permits just because Congress and the Biden administration tried to greenlight the MVP. Big fossil-fuel companies like Mountain Valley Pipeline can whine to their elected officials for special treatment, but we will hold them accountable for the harm they inflict on the climate, the lands, and the people of the South.” 

Greg Buppert, senior attorney and leader of SELC’s regional gas team:

“Pushing MVP through as a rider to must-pass piece legislation like the debt ceiling deal is totally unacceptable. But it’s pretty telling that it takes an Act of Congress to complete a new methane gas pipeline like MVP. Gas is over, it’s not a climate-change solution, and the sooner the gas industry gets that message, the better.”