U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco earlier this week asked the U.S. Supreme Court to temporarily block an order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana that has barred the Army Corps of Engineers from approving dredge-and-fill activities for pipeline water crossings under Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12).
Permitting under NWP 12 was suspended in April as part of litigation regarding construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. While plaintiffs in the Keystone XL case were only seeking a resolution on that specific pipeline, Judge Brian Morris responded with a nationwide ban on the permit used to authorize work around water crossings, impacting not only KXL but dozens of other oil and gas projects around the nation.
According to E&E News: “a stay of Morris’ order would remain in effect while the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considers whether the court’s May 11 amended order properly brought the permitting program to a halt for new pipeline construction… The request follows the 9th Circuit’s decision against taking immediate action to block Morris’ order, which puts the nationwide permit on hold while the Army Corps conducts an interagency Endangered Species Act consultation.”
The suspension of NWP 12 is a significant disruption to development of our nation’s critical energy infrastructure and gambles with both our energy security and national security. Such a widespread ruling will unnecessarily thwart investment and hinder energy investment for decades to come – with consumers ultimately paying the price.
Pipelines are carefully studied by both state and federal regulators before receiving the necessary permits and approval. But with this ruling, we are second-guessing the career professionals that have been tasked with studying and permitting our nation’s infrastructure – throwing regulatory consistency out the window. It is paramount the Supreme Court step in and overturn the order that will have such major repercussions for our nation’s energy future.