Writing in Blue Virginia on May 12, 2020, Jonathan Sokolow describes how the nationwide injunction by a judge in Montana brings construction on the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines to a halt, since they no longer have a valid permit to cross the thousands of waterways along their routes.
“On April 15, the judge in Northern Plains Resource Council v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, issued a nationwide order vacating a key federal permit, known as Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12 for short). Chief District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled that the Corps failed to comply with key provisions of the Endangered Species Act when it issued NWP 12 in 2017.”
Although the case was about the Keystone XL pipeline, the vacated permit affects all pipeline construction. Both the MVP and the ACP decided to avoid applying for individual water crossing permits by asking for and receiving permission to use the now vacated blanket NWP 12.
Keystone XL and other and other industry powerhouses (including Dominion) asked Judge Morris “to reverse himself, or at least modify his April ruling to apply only to the Keystone XL pipeline. They also asked the judge to stay his own order pending appeal.” On May 11, Judge Morris said no to both requests.
When companies complained that the ruling left them unable to cross water bodies, the judge pointed out that they could still pursue individual permits: “Developers remain able to pursue individual permits for their new oil and gas pipeline construction….Intervenors possess no inherent right to maximize revenues by using a cheaper, quicker permitting process, particularly when their preferred process does not comply with the [Endangered Species Act].”
Sokolow says, “Keystone XL will no doubt appeal this ruling. And ACP and MVP will continue to spin repeated court losses as ‘temporary’ setbacks. But for now, the nationwide injunction represents another huge impediment to construction of two massive pipelines that together, would more than double Virginia’s production of green house gases from stationary sources.”
And Sokolow concludes with a statement we all heartily endorse: “It is long past time for the companies behind these projects to fold their tents and go home.”