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Mountain Valley Pipeline Construction Moves Forward Thanks to Supreme Court

Environmental groups have estimated that the pipeline could have a yearly emissions impact equivalent to 26 coal plants.

A work crew for Precision Pipeline Company discusses the placement of a section of the Mountain Valley Pipeline that is halted near a wetland area, on August 25, 2022, in Walkersville, West Virginia.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday lifted a pair of lower court orders that temporarily halted construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-mile fracked gas project that has long been a top priority of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a close ally of the fossil fuel industry.

The high court’s brief order, which does not mention any dissents, sides with pipeline backers and vacates stays issued by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month, allowing construction to resume as the legal process plays out.

One of the stays, issued on July 10, blocked construction of a section of the pipeline that’s set to run through the Jefferson National Forest.

A day later, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals “issued a similar stay in connection with parallel litigation alleging the pipeline would violate the Endangered Species Act,” the Associated Press reported.

Supporters of the $6.6 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) — including Manchin, whose donors are positioned to benefit from the polluting project — rushed to condemn the appeals court’s orders, claiming they ran afoul of a section of a recently enacted law aimed at thwarting legal challenges to the MVP.

The section, included at the behest of Manchin and other industry allies, requires the federal government to approve all permits necessary for the completion of the MVP and states that “no court shall have jurisdiction to review any action taken” to advance the project.

The only court with jurisdiction to hear challenges to the latter provision, the law states, is the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Manchin welcomed the Supreme Court’s order, writing, “I am relieved that the highest court in the land has upheld the law Congress passed and the president signed.”

But environmentalists argue that Congress overstepped its authority by shielding the pipeline from legal challenges with Section 324 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023.

In a filing with the Supreme Court earlier this week, counsel for the Wilderness Society — which is suing to block the MVP — wrote that “despite what MVP and its supporters demand, nothing in Section 324 requires the Fourth Circuit to turn a blind eye and cede jurisdiction to an unconstitutional statute.”

Politico noted that the Supreme Court handed down its order Thursday “while the 4th Circuit was holding its hearing on the developer’s motion to reverse the stays.”

“The pipeline developer says that if it does not resume construction soon, it will be unable to complete before winter weather arrives in November and halts work until the spring,” the outlet added.

Environmental groups have estimated that, if completed, the Mountain Valley Pipeline could have an annual emissions impact equivalent to 26 U.S. coal plants or 19 million passenger cars.