A Draft Record of Decision document released by the United States Forest Service would allow 11 exceptions to the Jefferson National Forest Plan and adopt an amendment that allows old growth forests, rare species and wetlands to be destroyed by the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline.
The Draft Record of Decision (ROD) states that “the proposed plan amendment is needed…because the MVP Project cannot meet several Forest Plan Standards…to protect soil, water, riparian, old growth, recreational and visual resources.” (ROD, pg. 4)
The ROD refers to Executive Order 13766 recently issued by President Trump that directs the USFS to “expedite, in a manner consistent with the law, environmental reviews and approvals for all infrastructure projects that are a high priority for the Nation, such as …pipelines.”
Time for the energy development battles to move to court? This article mentions two potential litigation risks. The Forest did not consider any pipeline alternatives that would be consistent with the forest plan. It also adopts plan amendments that were not included in the DEIS (arguably these are new decisions that were never scoped). It could also test the amendment procedures under the 2012 Planning Rule.