Biden Administration Should Reverse Trump Pipeline Actions

A federal appeals court has dealt the Mountain Valley Pipeline two successive blows—but there's still more work to be done.

For those of us fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, there’s some exciting news—but still plenty of work to be done.

A federal appeals court has dealt the pipeline two successive blows.

First, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently rejected decisions by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management that had allowed Mountain Valley Pipeline to proceed with construction in the Jefferson National Forest. The court found the agencies improperly ignored real-world data and conducted inadequate analysis of the impacts of the pipeline on forest resources, including water quality.

Then, the same court overturned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s biological opinion and “incidental take” statement for Mountain Valley Pipeline, which govern the impacts to endangered species. The court found that the agency failed to adequately analyze the project's environmental impacts to two endangered species: the Roanoke logperch and the candy darter.

The court found many flaws in the federal agency actions. And there are two more lawsuits against state decisions pending before the court at this time.

Last year I wrote that President Biden can and should reverse anti-environmental decisions by the Trump administration that allowed construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to proceed. The President issued an executive order in January 2021 directing federal agencies to review Trump administration decisions that conflict with the principles of environmental protection, reducing climate change, and using the best available science, and to take action to address these inconsistencies. Consistent with this EO, the President took swift action to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline because of its climate impacts. He’s also done many other positive things to protect the climate and natural resources.

Yet other dirty oil and gas pipeline projects continue to move forward. When it comes to Mountain Valley Pipeline, no decisions have been reversed, even though the Forest Service under Trump had issued a flawed Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision to allow the pipeline to cross wildlands in the Jefferson National Forest. And the Fish and Wildlife Service under Trump had issued a biological opinion and incidental take statement that allowed Mountain Valley Pipeline to jeopardize endangered species.

The Biden administration’s inaction to stop destructive Trump pipeline decisions is not limited to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The administration has also been defending Trump administration decisions for the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Line 3 pipeline.

NRDC and our partners have made the case for why the bad Trump pipeline decisions should be reversed, but the Biden administration has not done that yet. Instead, it’s been defending these bad Trump decisions, which are riddled with analytical and legal flaws, in court. It’s time for the Biden administration to change course on pipelines and fulfill its commitment to protect the climate, clean water, and environmental justice.

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