US pipeline program challenged by environmentalists

Us Pipeline Program Challenged By Environmentalists
Heather Rousseau

FILE - In this June 22, 2018, file photo, construction crews are boring beneath U.S. 221 in Roanoke County, Va., to make a tunnel through which the Mountain Valley Pipeline will pass under the highway. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suspended a nationwide program used to approve oil and gas pipelines, power lines and other utility work, spurred by a court ruling that industry representatives warn could slow or halt numerous projects over environmental concerns.

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Environmentalists have filed a new legal challenge against a U.S. government program that allows oil and gas pipelines to be built across wetlands, rivers and other water bodies.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Great Falls, Mont. on Monday alleges that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers program lets companies skirt environmental reviews of potential spills by granting a blanket construction permit to the industry.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and other groups behind the litigation won a court order last year that temporarily blocked the Army Corps program, known as Nationwide Permit 12. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said at the time that officials did not adequately consult with wildlife agencies about potential harm from pipeline construction to imperiled plants and animals.

The Army Corps issued a new Nationwide Permit 12 in January, saying it expects the permit to be used more than 8,000 times a year and impact 615 acres annually of wetlands and other water bodies.

The groups behind Monday’s lawsuit said the agency failed to consider how that work could impact endangered sturgeon, whooping cranes and other fish and wildlife species that depend on wetlands.

Industry representatives argue the permit program has been used for decades without major environmental impacts.