WASHINGTON (June 18, 2020) — The Republican attorneys general for 18 states, led by West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey and Texas’s Ken Paxton, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay a district court judge’s decision to vacate a permit used for oil and gas pipeline projects throughout the country.
The stay would allow construction to continue on projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline without potentially lengthy delays, while the Ninth Circuit considers an appeal of the April 15 ruling by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris involving the Keystone Pipeline in Montana.
Morris, seated in Great Falls, Montana, modified his ruling only slightly about a month later, allowing the Corps of Engineers to approve electrical lines and other utility work across wetlands and streams. Maintenance and repair work on existing pipelines also would be allowed, but not construction of new pipelines, The Associated Press reported.
Nationwide Permit 12 regulates the discharge of materials, such as dredge or fill, into streams and wetlands. Environmentalists have attacked the permit as an unconscionable workaround to avoid an Endangered Species Act review.
“To allow the Corps to continue to authorize new oil and gas pipeline construction could seriously injure protected species and critical habitat,” Morris ruled.
Morrisey, Paxton and the other attorneys general, in a friend of the court brief to the Ninth Circuit and to the U.S. Supreme Court, contend Morris overstepped his authority when he vacated Nationwide Permit 12.
“The district court’s overbroad, unasked for relief is flawed as a matter of fairness and court procedure, not to mention on the merits,” the attorneys general wrote, adding they believe they are likely to prevail.
“Nevertheless, the surprise nationwide consequences of the district court’s order mean entities like the undersigned … cannot wait until then for relief: The disruption, delay, and costs the underlying decision will impose call for an immediate stay,” they wrote.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline project got a major boost recently when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed for a pipeline crossing deep below the Appalachian Trail.
Other attorneys general joining Morrisey and Paxton are from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.