Congress’s Mountain Valley Pipeline Tactic Was Legal, But Bizarre

Congress’s jurisdiction stripping gambit proved successful in the Supreme Court, allowing this natural gas pipeline to proceed.

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On July 27, the Supreme Court issued an emergency ruling in favor of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), allowing the controversial West Virginia gas project to continue construction. The MVP is a 303-mile under-construction natural gas pipeline from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, with a possible 75-mile extension to North Carolina.  Following years of broken laws, failed permit applications, and courtroom losses, Congress included a provision in the bipartisan Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) that demanded the completion of the pipeline and stripped all courts of jurisdiction to hear any cases questioning pipeline approvals. The Fourth Circuit Court, which oversees appeals in the West Virginia/Virginia region, issued a stay, halting pipeline construction while they reviewed this provision. Construction resumed, however, when the Supreme Court affirmed Congress’s right to strip this jurisdiction and bar the court from getting in the way. And it appears that the Supreme Court may have been right in that decision purely from a legal perspective, but the reason why points to a bizarre loophole Congress found to skirt the spirit of the Constitution’s separation of powers clause, a tactic reminiscent of one used to strong-arm court decisions during the Reconstruction era. Ethan explores some of the history around jurisdiction stripping, how it relates to the MVP, and why regardless of one’s feelings about the pipeline itself, Americans ought to understand the legal theory behind Congress’s gambit in this week’s “Tip of the Iceberg.”

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Writer: Ethan Brown, Velina Georgi, Mo Polyak, Emma Quarequio

Fact Checker: Mikaela Gonzalez

Editor: Ethan Brown

Producers: Ethan Brown, Hallie Cordingley, Shannon Damiano, Owen Reith

Ad Voiceover: Velina Georgi

Music: Brett Sawka

The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the host and guests. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Peril and Promise or The WNET Group.

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The Sweaty Penguin
The Sweaty Penguin is a digital news source and podcast aiming to make environmental issues less overwhelming and politicized and more accessible and fun.


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