A federal court on Monday froze construction permits for a contentious interstate gas pipeline project at the request of conservation groups challenging the pipeline.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a request to temporarily stay the permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-mile project expected to cross wetlands and streams in Virginia and West Virginia.
The order did not lay out the court’s reasoning.
The pipeline has been challenged by environmentalists who argue that a permit allowing for its construction violates environmental laws.
Its opponents also argued that the pause on the permits was necessary to prevent damage from being done to the environment while the case was being argued, citing an earnings call from this year in which executives said they would carry out certain activities “as quickly as possible before anything is challenged.”
Those challengers celebrated Monday’s decision.
“This decision will help ensure the pipeline doesn’t keep posing catastrophic threats to waterways that people and imperiled species depend on to survive,” said Jared Margolis, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. “Despite the project’s clear failure to comply with the law, Mountain Valley keeps pushing this climate-killing menace.”
However, the court’s new decision does not necessarily mean it will ultimately rule against the pipeline.
“While we are disappointed with the outcome of today’s decision, we are hopeful and expect that once the case is reviewed on the merits of the arguments there will be a different conclusion,” said Natalie Cox, a spokesperson for the project, in an email.
“The crews are continuing with all other aspects of the project – including forward construction work in various upland areas along the route, as authorized and permitted,” Cox added. “The project team is continuing its activities to maintain and enhance erosion & sedimentation controls and complete final restoration work along portions of the right-of-way, which is the most protective measure for the environment.”