AP U.S.

US appeals court dismisses motion challenging permits for natural gas pipeline

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Friday granted a motion to dismiss a challenge to construction permits for a controversial natural gas pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia after Congress mandated that the project move forward.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, sided with lawyers from Mountain Valley Pipeline in dismissing challenges to the project by environmental groups over concerns about the pipeline’s impact on endangered species, erosion and stream sedimentation.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month allowed construction to resume. Work had been blocked by the 4th Circuit, even after Congress ordered the project’s approval as part of the bipartisan bill to increase the debt ceiling. President Joe Biden signed the bill into law in June.

Lawyers for the company building the 300-mile (500-kilometer) pipeline argued before the appeals court two weeks ago that Congress was within its rights to strip the 4th Circuit from jurisdiction over the case. They also said that any debate over the law’s constitutionality should be heard not by the 4th Circuit but by an appellate court in Washington, because the law passed by Congress spells out that precise scenario.

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“Armed with this new legislation enacted specifically in their favor, Respondents — the federal agencies and the Mountain Valley Pipeline — moved in this Court for the dismissal of the petitions,” appeals judge James Wynn wrote. “Upon consideration of the matters before us, we must grant Respondents’ motions to dismiss.”

Environmental groups have opposed the the $6.6 billion project, designed to meet growing energy demands in the South and Mid-Atlantic by transporting gas from the Marcellus and Utica fields in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“Mountain Valley Pipeline is a dangerous, destructive project that repeatedly failed in attempts to obtain federal authorizations that could withstand legal scrutiny until it convinced its friends in Congress to intervene,” said Jessica Sims, the Virginia field coordinator for Appalachian Voices, an environmental organization. “We will not give up our efforts to protect the communities suffering the consequences of this unnecessary project.”

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