Appeals Court Dismisses Challenges Against Key Natural Gas Pipeline

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Nick Pope Contributor
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The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday unanimously dismissed two legal challenges against construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

The three judge panel decided to throw out two suits filed against the MVP by environmental groups, including Appalachian Voices and Sierra Club, citing the fact that Congress has clear jurisdiction over the pipeline via the Fiscal Responsibility Act. The U.S. Fourth Circuit of Appeals had previously paused construction of the MVP.

The decision to dismiss the two cases stands as a major victory for congressional Republicans and Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who took to Twitter to blast the U.S. Fourth Circuit of Appeals for temporarily blocking the pipeline’s construction in July while they sorted out the litigation. Ultimately, the same group of judges that Manchin criticized ruled in his favor Friday, weeks after the Supreme Court intervened in July to reverse the temporary pause on construction. (RELATED: Green Activists Pressure Renewables Industry To Reject Permitting Reform That Boosts ‘Dangerous’ Fossil Fuels)

In order to raise the debt ceiling, congressional Democrats and Republicans compromised on the Fiscal Responsibility Act before the U.S. ran out of borrowing power in June. That negotiated bill featured language which ordered all relevant agencies to issue all outstanding permits for the pipeline so that construction could be concluded, thereby rendering any outstanding legal challenges effectively irrelevant.

“Because Congress has ratified the challenged agency actions, there is no longer a live controversy and the underlying petitions are moot,” Judge James Wynn, Jr., a nominee of former President Barack Obama, wrote in the dismissal notice. “We therefore lack jurisdiction over them.”

The pipeline is set to be over 300 miles long and transport natural gas from West Virginia into the Southeast, where it will be used to generate electricity for Americans living in that region, according to the MVP’s website. The pipeline has been the object of strong activist opposition, with Manchin himself becoming a favored target of disruptive climate activists for his support of the project.

“The Fourth Circuit ruling ensures climate activists and activist courts cannot circumvent the Constitutional authority of congress in ensuring energy independence,” Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina said of the ruling, according to a press release issued Friday. “Taking a leap towards energy independence, Congress made clear in the Fiscal Responsibility Act that the Mountain Valley Pipeline energy superhighway will be completed to connect supply in West Virginia to the Southeast,” he continued, adding that “the ruling should serve as a warning to those who wish to subvert our laws and lead us down a path of energy dependence, grid instability and blackouts.”

Neither Sierra Club nor Appalachian Voices responded immediately to requests for comment.

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