FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 1, 2023
Today, for the third time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, one of several authorizations necessary under federal law to allow construction of the project.
The FWS declined to consider recently submitted filings related to recent U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public comment periods. Yet the FWS acknowledged that “FERC and the other action agencies will need to assess whether the materials contain any new information that might prevent them from relying on this Opinion…” Consultation on the Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement concluded on February 28, and the agency had up to 45 days to issue the authorization, bringing into question why the new filings were unable to be considered before submission of the new opinion today.
The agency again concluded that construction of MVP would not jeopardize the continued existence of protected species like the endangered candy darter, which is found in watersheds impacted by the project. The FWS’ previous opinion was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in February 2022. “Put differently, if a species is already speeding toward the extinction cliff, an agency may not press on the gas,” Judge James Andrew Wynn wrote at that time.
Mountain Valley Pipeline developers still lack federal authorizations from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and lawsuits are pending regarding state authorizations under the Clean Water Act. Read more about the pipeline’s status in our recent report.
Statement by Peter Anderson, Appalachian Voices’ Virginia Policy Director
“This authorization has already been vacated by a federal court, and we have no reason to believe that the facts and circumstances have changed such that the Mountain Valley Pipeline could be constructed in a way that would sufficiently mitigate impacts to listed species along the route.
“We are also concerned about how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service arrived at the decision issued today. Information was heavily redacted prior to public release, there was no comment period, and the agency refused to incorporate materials submitted during the consultation process regarding the pipeline’s potential impacts to sensitive species. The agency has not addressed legitimate public concerns, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s lack of transparency and thoroughness during this decision process is irresponsible.”
Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.