The Latest within the Mountain Valley Pipeline Case
The Supreme Court was right to overturn the lower court’s stay.
Environmental groups have fought valiantly to stop the development of the MVP project, and the Fourth Circuit has repeatedly upheld their legal claims. Congress recently gave the pipeline the go-ahead. The Fourth Circuit quickly halted it again but was overturned earlier today by the Supreme Court. I’m no fan of natural gas pipelines or of shortcutting the conventional appeals process. But this time I believe the Court got it right.
The problems revolved around Congress’s intervention within the dispute. The statutory provision upholding the pipeline was a part of the 2023 debt ceiling law. It was terrible public policy. Congress mustn’t intervene on decisions about particular projects, and natural gas pipelines fuel global warming. But Congress has the facility to do bad things as well nearly as good ones.
The environmental groups argued that a part of the supply must be read very narrowly and that the predominant portion was unconstitutional. Although I’m sympathetic to their arguments, in the long run I believe the law is clearly against them.
Essentially the most debatable a part of the 2023 law eliminated the jurisdiction of the courts to listen to any challenge to the MVP. It is a tricky area of constitutional law. On the one hand, Congress clearly has no business telling a court the right way to resolve a selected case. Alternatively, Congress clearly does have control over jurisdiction. When these principles bump up against one another, it might probably be hard to attract the road.
I believe Congress was on the constitutional side of the road on this case. It deprived the courts of the authority to listen to a category of cases, not only one which happened to be already pending. The lack of jurisdiction wasn’t conditional on how a court might rule on the merits of a case. Thus, that is something greater than a disguised effort to dictate a court’s findings of fact or legal conclusions.
As I indicated earlier, it is a tricky issue. But the opposite parts of the 2023 law seem clearly constitutional and sufficient by themselves to overturn the Fourth Circuit’s stay of the pipeline.
One among those other provisions requires challenges to the 2023 law to be heard by the D.C. Circuit, not the Fourth Circuit. The environmental groups argued that this may apply only in the event that they brought a separate case difficult the 2023 law. It’s a pleasant try, but that’s clearly not what Congress meant.
It will have been strange for Congress to require attacks on the statute to be within the D.C. Circuit in the event that they were separate lawsuits but not in the event that they were a part of other lawsuits. The identical panel of Fourth Circuit judges had issued multiple orders against the MVP, and Congress clearly wanted the constitutional issue to be heard by a unique court with no predispositions in regards to the case. Even when the jurisdiction-stripping a part of the law was unconstitutional, all of the Fourth Circuit could do could be to ask the D.C. Circuit to make a decision that issue.
Finally, Congress also said that it was ratifying the issuance of the permits for the pipeline and it directed the federal government to issue the permits and keep them in effect. Congress has the facility to exempt a project from environmental laws, and nobody argues that that is unconstitutional. In essence, that’s what Congress was doing here. That signifies that, even when the Fourth Circuit had jurisdiction, the environmental group’s arguments against the pipeline had turn out to be moot.
To issue a stay against the pipeline, the Fourth Circuit had to seek out that the environmental groups were more likely to prevail on all of their arguments in regards to the 2023 law. It’s very hard to see how that standard was met here.
The Supreme Court should nearly all the time let lower court litigation take its course before intervening. On this case, nonetheless, the Court’s intervention seems justified. In some unspecified time in the future, bad as a project may be, Congress does have the final word power to make a decision that it must be built. It might be painful, however the duty of the courts is to implement that congressional judgment.