Congress, Energy, Environment, US Supreme Court

Capito, Manchin, Morrisey celebrate Supreme Court order resuming Mountain Valley Pipeline construction

MORGANTOWN — Various elected officials and energy groups celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s Thursday decision to vacate the stays on completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

“I’m elated about this,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito during a Thursday conversation with members of the West Virginia press.

The one-paragraph unsigned order says, “The application to vacate stays presented to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is granted.”

It leaves open the possibility that MVP could in the future apply for a writ of mandamus — “an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion” according to Cornell University law school — to the U.S. Fourth Circuit, which issued the two stays, pending subsequent developments.

Capito said she believes the order reflects the Supreme Court’s belief that it’s time for the Fourth Circuit to get out of the way. “I think that this pretty much wraps it up.” She doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that the order came on the same day that the Fourth Circuit was hearing arguments on the stays.

Capito was among those who filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting MVP’s application to have the stays lifted. She said in a separate statement, “All necessary permits have been issued and approved, we passed bipartisan legislation in Congress, the president signed that legislation into law, and now the Supreme Court has spoken: Construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline can finally resume, which is a major win for American energy and American jobs.”

Sen. Joe Manchin was another who filed a brief. He said Thursday, “The Supreme Court has spoken and this decision to let construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline move forward again is the correct one. I am relieved that the highest court in the land has upheld the law Congress passed and the president signed.”

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also filed a brief. He said Thursday, “I am pleased the Supreme Court recognized the importance of this project not only for West Virginia, but for the nation. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is vital to the survival of American energy independence and affects thousands of jobs in West Virginia — its completion is also critical to our national security, the urgent need is for it to be completed as soon as possible.”

Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia Executive Director Charlie Burd also celebrated: “As the U.S. Department of Justice and now the Supreme Court have confirmed, Congress was well within its authority to expedite Mountain Valley Pipeline’s completion. Congress and federal regulators have both concluded this pipeline project is in the public’s best interest. We’re pleased with the outcome of today’s ruling and look forward to seeing this important infrastructure project begin generating the environmental, energy and national security benefits America desperately needs.”

MVP is a 303.5-mile pipeline that will carry natural gas from Wetzel County in West Virginia to southern Virginia. About 95% of the pipeline is in place, except for 3.5 miles through the Jefferson National Forest and the various stream crossings, which were the subject of the litigation now ended by the Surpeme Court’s order.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Appeals Court issued a stay on the MVP under the Endangered Species Act, and granted a stay of the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to allow the pipeline to be constructed through the Jefferson National Forest. MVP applied to the Supreme Court to lift the stays.

It’s been projected that for West Virginia, finishing MVP will create 3,000 construction jobs, and will generate $35 million a year in tax revenue when it’s operating. And should the day come that hydrogen replaces natural gas, the line can be re-sleeved to handle the new product.

With MVP fully greenlighted, MVP Southgate has the attention of the green groups that fought MVP.

MVP Southgate would extend 40 miles from MVP’s Virginia endpoint to the North Carolina border and another 34 miles into North Carolina. MVP announced the project in May 2018 and applied for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval that November. FERC issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity in June 2020.

FERC’s certificate required completion of the project by June 18 this year, and MVP has requested an extension to June 18, 2026. But this week the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices announced their opposition to the extension and are asking FERC to deny it.

Asked about that on Thursday, Capito said Southgate still has a lot of permitting to go through at a variety of agencies. And she doesn’t know why the opposition groups would have standing at this point.

“We’ll have to watch this very closely,” she said. She expects the battle to go to court, and in that case, the Supreme Court has made its thoughts clear on the Fourth Circuit interference.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act requires all MVP litigation to be handled in the D.C. Circuit Court, not the Fourth Circuit, which ruled regularly against MVP permits issued by the agencies.