Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC turned July 14 to the US Supreme Court to ask for an emergency decision to vacate a pair of appellate court stays blocking completion of the company’s natural gas pipeline from West Virginia.
The company also asked the Supreme Court for a mandamus order saying the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit lacked jurisdiction to issue stays on construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
The emergency application went specifically to Chief Justice John Roberts because of the way the Supreme Court divides up responsibilities for handling such applications. Roberts can act on his own or refer it to the full court. Either way, a response to an emergency request could come quickly.
“It is critical that the stay orders be vacated, and the underlying petitions for review be dismissed, as soon as possible, and in any event no later than July 26, 2023. MVP has only approximately three months to complete the pipeline before winter weather sets in and precludes significant construction tasks until the spring of 2024,” the company told the court.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, signed into law June 3, includes a Section 324 approving all needed permits for the pipeline project and removing jurisdiction over the subject from the Fourth Circuit. Nevertheless, the same three-judge panel of that circuit that had blocked the pipeline in the past used a pair of stays July 10 to halt the work again (OGJ Online, July 12, 2023).
In that law Congress also declared timely completion of the pipeline “is required in the national interest.” Section 324 of the law not only removed jurisdiction over the project from all appellate courts but specified that Section 324 itself could only be challenged in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Judicial activism charged
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) reacted July 14 to the appellate court’s stays by issuing a statement describing the Fourth Circuit as a “politicized” and “activist court.”
“Every time Mountain Valley Pipeline comes before that court you have the same three judges that issue the same decision, which is stay,” Capito said. “They are obviously opposed to this and are working on a political agenda.”
The three judges are Roger Gregory, originally put on the court by President Clinton, and James Wynn and Stephanie Thacker, chosen by President Obama to join the court. The pipeline project now has all needed permits, as mandated by the law. Almost all of the planned 303-mile line has been completed. All that remains is construction of a 3.5-mile crossing of the Jefferson National Forest, as well as completion of some stream crossings outside the forest and restoration of disturbed landscape, according to the company.
The project is designed as a 42-in. OD pipeline with capacity to transmit 2 bcfd of natural gas to interconnections serving Eastern US markets. Equitrans Midstream Corp. is the project leader and holds the largest ownership stake at more than 47%.