ICWA PERSPECTIVE: “Finally the facts have caught up with MVP’s unrealistic claims and unjustifiable assault on Peters Mountain, the Appalachian Trail and other public treasures within the Jefferson National Forest.” Howdy Henritz, speaking for ICWA and Save Monroe
See below for news coverage and case-related documents.
FEDERAL COURT RULES (AGAIN) AGAINST MVP’S CROSSING ON PETERS MOUNTAIN
On Tuesday January 25, 2022 the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit invalidated the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approvals for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The court’s decision will protect the Jefferson National Forest from pipeline construction at this time and presents yet another setback to the overall project completion. (A version of this update appears in the Monroe Watchman.)
The legal challenge was brought by a coalition of organizations, including Indian Creek Watershed Association, Save Monroe, Preserve Craig, Wild Virginia, Appalachian Voices, The Wilderness Society, and Sierra Club. These environmental organizations were represented by attorneys from Appalachian Mountain Advocates and the Sierra Club.
“Today’s decision prevents this pipeline from endangering the Jefferson National Forest, wildlife and habitats that make up the heart of one of the largest remaining wild landscapes in the eastern United States,” explained the Sierra Club.
In its Order, the Court concluded that the Forest Service and the BLM:
- Inadequately considered the actual sedimentation and erosion impacts of the pipeline;
- Prematurely authorized the use of the conventional bore method to construct stream crossings; and
- Failed to comply with the Forest Service’s 2012 Planning Rule.
The Court’s unanimous decision is the second time it has “vacated” the decisions of the Forest Service and the BLM regarding the MVP project and “remanded” (or sent them back) to the agencies. The first ruling was on July 27, 2018, and since then no construction has been allowed on the Jefferson National Forest portions of the MVP route.
Starting in 2015, Monroe County residents have opposed allowing MVP to cross Peters Mountain and other Jefferson National Forest lands. In addition to Save Monroe and ICWA, local groups have included Preserve Monroe and The Border Conservancy, a Peters Mountain based group which succeeded in preventing the APCO 765kW powerline from crossing through the JNF in the Waiteville-Zenith area.
Since pipeline construction began in 2018, the county has watched as MVP has torn up woodlands and pastures and allowed sediment to muddy the county’s creeks in its march toward the Lindside area of Peters Mountain. This crossing gravely endangers the Rich Creek cave and spring as well as other private water resources.
In response to the Court’s latest decision, Howdy Henritz of ICWA and Save Monroe said, “Finally the facts have caught up with MVP’s unrealistic claims and unjustifiable assault on Peters Mountain, the Appalachian Trail and other public treasures within the Jefferson National Forest.”
About the Planning Rule Decision
Since 2015, Tammy Belinsky, Virginia-based attorney for Preserve Craig, Save Monroe and ICWA, has been relentless in her objections to the Forest Service’s violations of its own planning rules. She explained the most recent decision this way:
“The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has finally put an end to government pandering to the private interests of the MVP, LLC. In very plain language the Court ruled that the Forest Service is required to manage a National Forest in a manner that either maintains or restores the forest conditions. In the case of the MVP, the best the Forest Service can say is that waiving the protections would not substantially lessen the protections. The Court ruled that’s not good enough when the standard is to maintain or restore. We all know that no conditions anywhere along the pipeline route have been maintained or restored, let alone on the National Forest.”
“Today’s ruling is a critical victory for the Jefferson National Forest, its treasured landscape, and an intact forest ecosystem,” said Ben Tettlebaum, senior staff attorney at The Wilderness Society who also worked with Belinsky and the other attorneys. “The true heroes are the local communities who have been fighting this land, water, and climate-killing gas pipeline since its inception. Now is the time for the Forest Service and BLM to prioritize our cherished public lands and the courageous people who dare to protect them over this ill-conceived, destructive, and doomed pipeline.”
- U.S. Court of Appeals deals another blow to MVP – Register-Herald.1-26-22 (also appeared in the Bluefield Telegraph)-
- Federal appeals court throws out JNF crossing approval – Gazette-Mail.1-26-22
- Court deals major blow to Mountain Valley pipeline – E&E News.1-26-22
(Note: Long documents may take a while to load all pages when trying to view online. These documents can also be downloaded for faster viewing or saving.) If you cannot open a link, copy and paste it into your browser.
- 2022-01-25 4th Circuit Opinion Vacating and Remanding JNF Permit –The three-judge panel’s unanimous decision vacates the FS and BLM decisions to approve Mountain Valley Pipeline’s plans to cross the Jefferson National Forest.
- 2021-04-15 Wild Virginia v. USFS Opening Brief 4th Circuit – Multiple issues regarding flaws in the Forest Service and BLM decisions are outlined (Section V.) and argued in detail (Section VI.) by the attorneys representing the environmental organizations.
- 2021-01-11 Forest Service Record of Decision MVP- fseprd874164 – The “ROD” announces the FS decision to approve amendments to the Jefferson National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan in five parts: Utility Corridor, Soil and Riparian, Old Growth Management Area, ANST Area, and Scenic Integrity Objectives. The FS decision makes “project-specific exceptions” for the MVP project in each area.
- 2020-12-11 Forest Service MVP Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement – This FSEIS responds to the July 27, 2018 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decision that vacated and remanded the Forest Service’s decision approving the JNF’s plan amendment. The supplemental analysis addresses the issues identified by the Court and any relevant new information and changed circumstances.