Weekly litigation settlement summary

It’s been awhile since we’ve gotten a Forest Service litigation summary, but it was a busy week for settling three cases involving the Forest Service.

Idaho salmon

A U.S. District Court judge signed off on an agreement between the Forest Service and Idaho Conservation League involving water diversions in the Sawtooth Valley.  The Forest Service has agreed to complete biological assessments of 20 water diversions in central Idaho that the conservation group says could be harming protected salmon. The Forest Service has three years to complete the reviews of the diversions that mostly supply water to homes in the area.  The judge in June ordered the Forest Service to complete the reviews, and the documents filed Thursday spell out a timeline as agreed to by the Forest Service and Idaho Conservation League.

In this case the settlement narrowly concerns the timetable because the court fully resolved the case and told the Forest Service what it needed to do

Montana bull trout

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue in September over management of bull trout in the East Fork of Rock Creek and in the St. Mary River drainage, alleging the federal agencies managing bull trout in those drainages violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to complete formal consultation to protect the trout, which are listed as a “threatened” population. The notice specified the Bureau of Reclamation in connection with the St. Mary River and the Beaverhead/Deer Lodge National Forest in regards to Rock Creek.  The issues here also include water diversions, and additional concerns about flow management and degraded stream channels in Rock Creek.  Earlier this month, the agencies sent letters to lawyers for the Alliance, agreeing to undertake the formal consultation.  

This is exactly what a NOI to sue under ESA is intended to do.  Technically it’s not a settlement since a lawsuit hadn’t been filed yet, but it keeps the agencies out of the position that the Sawtooth is in (above).  There is no timetable specified; they just need to do the process.

Mountain Valley Pipeline

Before a judge decides whether to approve a $2.15 million settlement of a lawsuit alleging environmental damage caused by building the Mountain Valley Pipeline, state regulators will consider public comments on the proposal.  The state agencies are a plaintiff who sued Mountain Valley, saying the company violated state regulations meant to limit erosion and sedimentation more than 300 times in building the largest natural gas pipeline ever to cross Southwest Virginia.

This settlement involves some substantive elements.  In October, Attorney General Mark Herring announced a settlement that provides a framework for court-ordered enforcement going forward, with the possibility that the financial penalty will exceed the $2.15 million agreement if additional violations occur.  Mountain Valley agreed to conditions — which include hiring independent monitors to make inspections beyond what had previously been required by the state — as part of a consent decree that will soon go to a county circuit judge.

This is just one of the lawsuits against the pipeline; others seek to restore permits struck down last year by the 4th Circuit, one to allow the pipeline to pass through the Jefferson National Forest (described here) and the second for it to cross more than 1,000 streams and wetlands.


2 thoughts on “Weekly litigation settlement summary”

  1. Mountain Valley Pipeline – what a crock. All the enviro’s and do-gooders have come out of the woodwork on this one without recognizing the one thing the Jefferson NF needs is more not less open and early successional habitat. Same people think not a bit about second-home constructions in the mountains, rapidly subdivision growth in the valleys, etc. And the stop order, left miles and miles of cleared ROW with incomplete BMPs. If they really cared about the Roanoke log perch that would ask the Corps and AEP to remove all the dams on the New River. If they really cared about the northern long-eared bat, they should demand the whole national forest be put on a 7-12 year burn cycle to improve day-roost habitat and foraging habitat. But alas….. Next up windmills. They want clean energy, but suddenly when it is their view instead of somewhere else, trust me these same people will worry about wildlife mortality and their viewshed from the 5000 sq ft. $1.2 million mountain lodge.

  2. I think the biggest problem is that the process allows construction to begin in some places before all parts of the project have been approved. Regarding early successional habitat, the Forest Service disagrees about the Jefferson needing more of it … (quoting the court quoting the EIS):

    “The EIS indicated that the proposed right of way would transform approximately 336 acres of adjacent “interior forest” habitat into “forest edge” habitat. 9 J.A. 210. The EIS noted that interior forest “has a higher habitat value for some wildlife species, and is generally considered rarer than forest edges which have lower habitat value for many species and can be created immediately with disturbance.””


Leave a Comment