Credit: IEEFA

The Mountain Valley Pipeline Fight — It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

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Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline lost in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals this week. No one was surprised, since a bill passed earlier this year expressly said that the only court that has jurisdiction over litigation involving the pipeline is the DC Circuit Court in Washington.

The three judges of the 4th Circuit seemed to sympathize with those who brought suit to challenge the Mountain Valley pipeline, but said their hands were tied by the recent legislation. They dismissed the protesters’ appeal and wished them good luck with the DC court.

Corrupt, Reckless Fossil Fuel Companies

“It is clear to us that the top levers of power in this country do not serve the good of the people of Appalachia, who they have continued to sacrifice for the whims of a corrupt, reckless fossil fuel corporation,” said Russell Chisholm, managing director of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) Coalition. “As wildfires and heatwaves terrorize our global kin, as President Biden spreads misinformation about his climate commitments, we resolve to protect our communities because we can’t count on so-called ‘leaders’ to do so.”

On its website, POWHR says it is an interstate coalition representing individuals and groups from Virginia and West Virginia dedicated to protecting water, land, and communities from harms caused by the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

“POWHR members and organizations are part of a growing grassroots movement to stop fossil fuel expansion in Appalachia, including the MVP, and to kickstart the transition to a just and renewable future. We integrate the broader context of this pipeline fight into all our work, as part of a united fight to stop all new fossil fuel projects in the United States, combat environmental injustice, and meaningfully address the climate crisis.” That sounds like the kind of “woke” organization we need more of.

Jason Crazy Bear Keck, co-founder of 7 Directions of Service, was similarly undeterred, saying that “we are extremely disappointed but never surprised by the system created for profit. Such tools of oppression operate exactly as they were intended to. This terrible news does not hinder or harm our conviction, rather it proves the necessity to keep on resisting.”

“The temper tantrums from corporate agents and bought-off political implants only remind the people of how terribly off-track governance has become as it relates to the protection of society and its natural environment,” he added. “We continue to condemn irresponsibility, condemn systematic oppression, and condemn an all out federal attack on our futures. We stand on what’s right, what’s just, and what’s sustainable for our generations not yet arrived.”

Mountain Valley Pipeline & The Law

The 4th Circuit had previously ruled against the Mountain Valley Pipeline but its decision was reversed by the US Supreme Court. Then the matter got lumped in with the budget insanity brought on by the so-called Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives, which forced the Biden administration to agree to the provision making the DC court the sole arbiter of any future challenges.

Of course, lurking in the background, are the 6 oil-soaked justices of the Supreme Court who were installed by fossil fuel companies to protect their interests — something they have done with great zeal since lying to Congress during their confirmation hearings.

In its opinion last week, judge James Wynn wrote that the “sole contention in response to the motions to dismiss was that Section 324 was unconstitutional, a claim that can only be heard by the D.C. Circuit. Therefore, the motions to dismiss must be granted for lack of jurisdiction.”

Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote in a concurring opinion that “while I join the conclusion that Congress has acted within its legislative authority in enacting” the part of Section 324 that gives the D.C. Circuit jurisdiction, “I write separately because Congress’ use of its authority in this manner threatens to disturb the balance of power between co-equal branches of government.”

Judge Roger Gregory also raised separation of power concerns in a concurring opinion, writing that “Section 324 is a blueprint for the construction of a natural gas pipeline by legislative fiat. If that provision is likewise constitutionally sanctioned, then Congress will have found the way to adjudicate by legislating for particular cases and for particular litigants, no different than the governmental excesses our Framers sought to avoid.”

“For that reason, I fear Congress has employed this court’s constitutionally directed deference to legislative prerogatives to undermine the Constitution and, in the process, it has made the court an accessory to its deeds. If that is so, I wonder if Section 324 is a harbinger of erosion not just to the environment, but to our republic. That, only our Supreme Court can decide.”

A Tale Of Destruction & Greed

Wild Virginia conservation director David Sligh, said after the 4th Circuit ruling, “The builders and political backers of the MVP could not get this destructive project across the finish line by following the rules that are supposed to apply to all projects. The reason is simple. The pipeline cannot be built across these valuable and sensitive landscapes in a way that upholds our historic laws, including the Endangered Species Act.”

“The Fish and Wildlife Service failed in its duties three times, so Congress and the president have attempted to give the MVP a get out of jail free card on its responsibility to protect our rare and precious species. We will not stop exposing the dangers and damages from this project and insisting that it be canceled.”

One protester said, “Any reputable scientist could tell you that this pipeline is inconsistent with a future where humans continue to live. It’s that simple. The MVP is a doomsday device. It is only being built so the rich can get richer. Our ‘leaders’ have clearly taken a side, so it’s up to us to stop this thing.”

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The Takeaway

The lunatics in the Freedom Caucus have adopted a scorched earth policy to get what they want. Some say politics is like sausage — you don’t want to see how it is made. What Congress has done — and the Biden administration has sanctioned — is give the American people and the environment a soap suds enema in plain view of anyone who cares to look.

The arrogance of the fossil fuel companies is simply stunning in its scope. They will not stop until there is not a molecule of coal, oil, or methane left to extract and all in the name of profits — the needs of the people and the Earth be damned. Two protesters chained themselves to construction equipment after the decision, which subjects them to harsh criminal penalties.

Meanwhile, the pipeline fascists continue to fly around in their private jets and pay themselves fat salaries while distorting the legislative process with oceans of bribes and flotillas of lobbyists. Clearly American jurisprudence is putting the wrong people in jail.

It ain’t over til it’s over. Every abuse by the establishment just hardens the resolve of the Mountain Valley pipeline opponents.

There is a corollary to this story. Clarence “The Clown” Thomas, the worst justice of the Supreme Court in history, has been revealed to be nothing more than a grifter who has parlayed the politics of grievance into a career as a hard right apologist for slapping down long established legal precedents that do not please his masters in the Federalist Society.

Whether it’s bawdy wedding cakes or a woman’s right to control her own body, “Chuckles” has been faithfully up to the task given him — taking a hatchet to the legacy of Thurgood Marshall while accepting bribes from his benefactors.

If Congress can restrict jurisdiction of an important case like Mountain Valley pipeline, it clearly has the power to impose a code of ethics on the Supreme Court to restrain crooks like Clarence. Corruption by a member of the highest court in the land cannot be tolerated. The fools in the Freedom Caucus have unwittingly shown how easy it is for Congress to exercise control over the federal courts and by implication the Supreme Court as well. Now all they have to do is take their newfound authority and exercise it — vigorously.


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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