On Friday, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered work stopped on the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas along a 303-mile route from West Virginia to Virginia, Reuters reported.
The order is the consequence of a legal victory for pipeline opponents July 27, in which three federal appeals judges revoked two permits for the pipeline to cross the Jefferson National Forest, ruling that the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management had not properly reviewed the project before issuing the permits, The Washington Post reported. The judges ordered the agencies to redo the permits.
"Should the agencies authorize alternative routes, (Mountain Valley) may need to revise substantial portions of the project route across non-federal lands, possibly requiring further authorizations and environmental review," FERC said in explaining its decision to halt construction, Reuters reported.
The Sierra Club, one of the environmental groups that brought the suit against the pipeline, applauded the FERC's decision.
"We have said all along that we can't trust polluting corporations to protect our water and we're relieved to see construction temporarily halted along the entire route of the MVP," Sierra Club senior attorney Nathan Matthews said in a statement. "This order is a victory for everyone who values clean water and a wake-up call for those who think they can put profits over people. There is no right way to build these dirty, dangerous fracked gas pipelines and we will continue to fight them until construction is stopped permanently."
Natalie Cox, spokesperson for EQT Corp., the company leading construction on the pipeline, told Reuters in an email that the company "respectfully disagrees with the breadth of the August 3 stop work order."
"We will continue to work closely with all agencies to resolve these issues and look forward to continuing the safe construction of this important infrastructure project," Cox said.
Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have been fighting it with a combination of tree sits and lawsuits.
In June, the FERC announced that the pipeline had to stop construction more than 591 streams and wetlands in West Virginia following another appeals court decision in favor of environmental groups.
Opponents hope a mass of legal victories can stop the project all together, and shine a light on an FERC approval process that goes too easy on developers.
"We hoped this case will put a brake on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which is running roughshod over the environmental planning process," Wilderness Society conservationist Hugh Irwin told The Washington Post of the lawsuit that led to the current stoppage, to which his organization was a party. "Significant environmental concerns were brushed aside and inadequately analyzed," he said.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is seen by opponents as a particularly egregious example of a project that ignored environmental and community concerns."Quite frankly, Mountain Valley Pipeline has become a good example of bad energy development," The Appalachian Trail Conservancy said in a statement. "Currently the steep mountainsides near Roanoke are being carved, gashed and ripped up. Unusually heavy rainfall this year has, from when the earthmovers first fired up, exposed the recklessness of this pipeline developer," they wrote.
Federal regulators approved plans for two controversial new natural gas pipelines along the East Coast Friday.
In a divided 2-1 vote, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the green light to the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline projects, which would carry shale gas through Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, the only dissenting vote, expressed concerns in her written dissent on the redundancy of the collective 900 miles of pipeline, the potential environmental impacts and the relatively small accounted demand for the Mountain Valley project.
Both pipelines have been met with severe local opposition, and some activists expect backlash and increased fights against the projects following FERC's decision.
As reported by the Charlotte Business Journal:
"Greg Buppert, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, called the FERC order a long-anticipated 'rubber stamp' and said his organization intends to challenge the decision.
'The utilities involved in the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline claim utility customers will save money, when in fact this pipeline will drive up ratepayers' bills—and cause harm to national forests and to rivers and streams while threatening to commit our states to fossil fuels for decades to come," he says.'"
"This poorly-planned pipeline will hurt the local economy, pollute central Virginia's clean drinking water supply and scar the Appalachian National Scenic Trail," Ron Tipton, president and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy said in a statement.
"Central Virginia does not need another pipeline to fulfill America's energy needs, particularly one that violates local environmental laws and is strongly opposed by local elected officials and citizen groups."
For a deeper dive:
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.