Dem senator urges Supreme Court to reinstate major gas pipeline

Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin filed a brief with the Supreme Court Tuesday asking the high court to reinstate the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a 303-mile natural gas pipeline under construction.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act, a bill that suspended the limit on federal debt through early 2025 and was signed by President Biden in early June, included a provision automatically approving any outstanding federal environmental permits for the MVP, which runs from West Virginia to Virginia. However, last week, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay blocking the pipeline’s construction from proceeding.

‘I was proud to help ensure that the Mountain Valley Pipeline would finally be completed through ratification and approval of the project’s permits without further judicial review in the Fiscal Responsibility Act,’ Manchin said in a statement. 

‘But, yet again, this vital energy infrastructure project has been put on hold by the Fourth Circuit despite the new law clearly stating that the Fourth Circuit no longer has this authority.

‘We cannot let this continue any longer,’ he added. ‘It’s a shame when members of Congress have to ask the Supreme Court to intervene to maintain the credibility of the laws that we have passed and the President has signed, but I am confident that the Court will uphold our laws and allow construction of MVP to resume.’

In addition to guaranteeing permits for the MVP project, the Fiscal Responsibility Act included language transferring the jurisdiction for judicial review from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The language was included as a result of the appeals panel’s history of striking down key permits for the project.

The legislation specifically states the D.C. Circuit Court ‘shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over any claim alleging the invalidity’ of the provision approving MVP. 

On Friday, the pipeline’s developer asked the Supreme Court to vacate the stay issued by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court then set a deadline of early next week for plaintiffs, a coalition of environmental groups, to respond.

In his brief, Manchin highlighted that Section 324 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act greenlighted the project and changed its jurisdiction.

‘Section 324 changes the law governing completion of the pipeline,’ he stated in the brief. ‘It supersedes the statutes pursuant to which the agency authorizations being contested in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals were issued, and it replaces them with a new law mandating federal agencies to issue and maintain the authorizations necessary to complete the pipeline.

‘Enactment of section 324 moots the cases pending in the Fourth Circuit and deprives it of jurisdiction to grant the stays the Applicant is asking this Court to vacate,’ Manchin added. ‘Section 324 is a valid Act of Congress and should be given legal effect.’

According to Equitrans Midstream, the pipeline’s developer, MVP will transport about 2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas from West Virginia to consumers in the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic. The pipeline is projected to generate $40 million in new tax revenue for West Virginia, $10 million in new tax revenue for Virginia and up to $250 million in royalties for West Virginia landowners.

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