WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, community and clean water advocates sued to reverse a U.S. Forest Service decision rushed through behind undue political pressure from the lame duck Trump administration. The Forest Service announced today it approved a plan for the controversial fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) to build through the Jefferson National Forest, waiving common sense protections they had previously determined were necessary to protect the Forest from similar projects.
This suit is only the latest setback for the project, which is more than three years behind schedule and has nearly doubled its original budget to $6 billion, despite being only about halfway complete.
Just weeks ago, the Roanoke Times reported that documents obtained in an open records request showed non-partisan employees felt pressured by political appointees to clear a regulatory path for the MVP.
The conservation groups involved in the suit are the Sierra Club, Wild Virginia, Appalachian Voices, The Wilderness Society, Save Monroe, Preserve Craig, Indian Creek Watershed Association, and the Monacan Indian Nation. The Monacan Indian Nation is represented by William J. Cook, from Special Counsel of Cultural Partners, PLLC and the others are represented by the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program and Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
In response, Sierra Club Senior Attorney Nathan Matthews released the following statement:
“Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Forest Service still can’t show that there’s any way to build this pipeline without violating the laws that protect our national forests and clean water. Two years after a federal court held that the Forest Service unlawfully ignored its own career technical staff’s concerns about the pipeline, as well as its own plans to protect the Jefferson National Forest, the Forest Service has chosen to explicitly bypass that staff and have a political appointee approve the project. If the Forest Service had done its job, it would have realized that the Forest is no place for this pipeline.”
William J. Cook, Special Counsel of Cultural Partners, PLLC and attorney for the Monacan Indian Nation on the appeal:
“Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Forest Service cannot rely on the failed and meaningless consultation of FERC with tribes to expedite the Forest Service’s permitting review.”
David Sligh, Conservation Director of Wild Virginia, said:
”The Forest Service and BLM bowed to political pressure and rushed these decisions. They failed in their most basic duty, to rely on facts and science to make decisions that fully protect our national treasures. They ignored evidence of the damage MVP has already done and based predictions of environmental harm on technical analyses that defy logic and ignore scientific findings and principles. These agencies have, once again, betrayed the public trust.”
Hugh Irwin, Landscape Conservation Planner for The Wilderness Society, said:
“The Mountain Valley Pipeline is emblematic of the Trump Administration’s four-year desecration of our public lands. Americans put their trust in the U.S. Forest Service to safeguard the splendor of Jefferson National Forest for future generations. Instead, the agency is doing the oil and gas industry’s bidding by unlawfully rubber-stamping this destructive fracked gas pipeline through the heart of the forest. We’ve stopped the pipeline before, and we won’t stop fighting until this ill-conceived project is gone for good.”
Jessica Sims, Virginia Field Coordinator for Appalachian Voices, said:
“The U.S. Forest Service, under pressure from the pro-pollution Trump Administration, shirked its critical responsibility to preserve and protect special lands held in the public trust. Ignoring impacted community members and thousands who voiced opposition, the agency has shamefully broken its own rules to rubber stamp permissions for the ruinous MVP.”
Bill Wolf, Chair, Preserve Craig said:
“While current administration officials are leaving the administration during a period of unprecedented political conflict, now is not the time to be making decisions that will change the Jefferson National Forest forever. In the vacuum of responsible leadership the Forest Service is doing the bidding of MVP, a floundering and destructive limited liability company. This decision is legally flawed just like the last time. The assault on the Jefferson National Forest must be stopped.”
Howdy Henritz, President of Indian Creek Watershed Association said:
“This decision is a total abdication of the mission of the Forest Service — including its responsibility to local communities that rely on the water resources that will be harmed by MVP’s private plunder of our public lands. We have seen firsthand MVP’s repeated failures to control their mud from desecrating our pure mountain waters, and we are more than disappointed with the Forest Service.”