A motion to stay the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s (FWS) latest Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was filed November 30 with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) on behalf of its clients: Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club and The Virginia Wilderness Committee. The FWS’s original Opinion and Take Statement on the project was struck down by the Fourth Circuit in an opinion issued August 6, 2018. FWS issued a revised Opinion and Take Statement was issued September 11 and a stop work order that had been in effect since the Fourth Circuit’s decision was lifted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on September 17.
In its petition to the Court, SELC pointed out that four endangered species would be adversely affected by ACP construction: 1) Indiana bats habitats in several designated Appalachian Recovery Units along the route; 2) clubshell mussels adversely impacted by sedimentation-inducing activities in their watershed; 3) the Rusty-patched bumble bee as the result of tree felling in Bath County, VA; and the Madison cave isopd due to access road construction in Bath County. The petition further argues that the FWS, as it did in approving the first Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement for the ACP rushed to judgment as the result of political pressure from the Department of Interior to accommodate the project, without conducting a thorough analysis as required by law regarding the impacts upon the cited endangered species.
Concluding, the petition proclaims: “The public interest is not harmed by a delay in construction. Even if Atlantic can make a showing of economic harm, that economic harm does not equate to harm to the public interest.”