WASHINGTON, W.Va. (WV News) — The U.S. Supreme Court has vacated stays placed on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, allowing the pipeline’s construction to resume as legal battles continue.
Project developers Equitrans Midstream Corporation petitioned Chief Justice John Roberts to lift the orders handed down July 10 and 11 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
“The application to vacate stays presented to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is granted,” Roberts wrote in the order issued Thursday, adding that both stays issued by the Fourth Circuit “are hereby vacated.”
The stays prevented construction from resuming at a 3.5-mile stretch in the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia, as well as several stream crossings in West Virginia.
The stays were issued after a lawsuit was filed by environmental groups challenging the constitutionality of the law that allowed the project to move forward.
As part of Congress’ effort to fast-track the pipeline’s approval included in the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 earlier this year, one provision assigned exclusive jurisdiction of future legal challenges to the D.C. Circuit appeals court.
“The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over any claim alleging the invalidity of this section or that an action is beyond the scope of authority conferred by this section,” the law states.
In its petition to the chief justice, the pipeline developers argued that the Fourth Circuit lacked jurisdiction to consider the original Petition for Review.
The company also asked Roberts to apply their petition as a writ of mandamus to dismiss the petition.
“For the same reasons the Fourth Circuit lacked jurisdiction to enter the stays challenged in this application, it lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate the underlying petitions for review …” the company asserted.
While Roberts did vacate the stays, he declined to apply a writ of mandamus, meaning the legal proceedings in the Fourth Circuit will be able to continue.
Roberts wrote that the decision not to apply the writ of mandamus “at this time” was made “without prejudice to further consideration in light of subsequent developments,” leaving the door open for a future ruling from the high court to issue such an order.
The Fourth Circuit heard oral arguments in the case the same day Roberts issued his order.
MVP received a slew of support for its petition from officials and industry stakeholders in the form of amicus curiae — or “friend of the court” briefs.
Many of those same officials have been outspoken supporters of the project throughout its development and celebrated the order.
“The Supreme Court has spoken, and this decision to let construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline move forward again is the correct one,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va..
“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,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
“All three branches of government agree: The completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is legal and must be finished immediately,” said U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va.
“I am pleased the Supreme Court recognized the importance of this project, not only for West Virginia, but for the nation,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. “The urgent need is for it to be completed as soon as possible.”
On X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., called the announcement, “A win for American energy independence!”
Gov. Justice also responded to the court’s order on the platform, writing, “Good news!”
The decision also was applauded by the Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia.
“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,” said Charlie Burd, executive director of GO-WV.
The current lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal actions that have mired the pipeline project over the course of nearly a decade.
When the project was initially announced in 2014, developers said it was expected to cost around $3.5 billion and would be completed by the end of 2018.
The cost of the project, which is around 94% complete, is now expected to be in excess of $6.5 billion, according to its developers, who hope to be able to complete the project by the end of 2023.
The MVP project is planned to span approximately 303 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, transporting natural gas from the Mountain State to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and South-Atlantic regions.