Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (MVP, LLC) has requested that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals randomly assign judges to hear future cases involving appeals over permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. In a May 16 petition filed with the Fourth Circuit, MVP, LLC argued that the “Court’s rules do not contemplate the assignment of the same judges to every case involving one specific private party, if those cases cover one large, multi-state project.” The petition goes on to point out that the “Court has consistently assigned the same three judges to numerous, diverse cases involving different state and federal authorizations for Mountain Valley in all but two instances.”
The company’s petition was filed in conjunction with the lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club challenging Virginia’s certification that the MVP’s water crossings comply with state standards, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.
MVP, LLC’s petition further argues that:
- “Over the last four years, only four of the Court’s 18 sitting judges have heard any of the myriad petitions challenging different federal and state authorizations for Mountain Valley and the former Atlantic Coast Pipeline.” Primarily, there have been three judges hearing most pipeline cases: Chief Judge Gregory (who oversees the assignment of cases) and Judges Wynn and Thacker.
- “In the twelve consolidated petitions challenging different authorizations for Mountain Valley and ACP, this special panel has vacated or stayed all but two. It has done so despite purporting to apply the Administrative Procedure Act’s deferential standard of review in each case, which constrains courts to set aside only arbitrary and capricious agency action.”
- “This Court’s internal operating procedures, which aim to ‘achieve total random selection’ in assigning mature cases to three-judge panels, dictate random assignment in this case.”
- “The perception created by this Court’s deliberate formation of a special ‘pipeline panel’— actually, a ‘Mountain Valley panel’— threatens public confidence in the Court’s legitimacy. Contrary to the Court’s own rules, Mountain Valley and members of the public, currently expect the same panel on any pipeline case before this Court.”