The Mountain Valley Pipeline, a proposed 487.6km underground, interstate natural gas pipeline system in the US, has been hit with a fresh lawsuit from conservation groups.

The latest lawsuit filed with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, challenges the approval given by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to the natural gas pipeline, which is being laid between northwestern West Virginia and southern Virginia.

Sierra Club filed the lawsuit on behalf of Wild Virginia, Appalachian Voices, Center for Biological Diversity, Preserve Bent Mountain/BREDL, Defenders of Wildlife, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The $4.6bn (£3.81bn) Mountain Valley Pipeline, which will be operated by EQM Midstream Partners, has been designed to transport more than two billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale regions.

Having broken ground in February 2018, the natural gas pipeline is due to begin full operations in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Partnering EQM in the pipeline project are NextEra US Gas Assets, Con Edison Transmission, RGC Midstream, and WGL Midstream.

Reason for the new lawsuit against the Mountain Valley Pipeline

According to Sierra Club, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued an opinion enabling the pipeline project to move ahead in spite of the serious threat it posed to endangered species.

The conservation groups allege the agency did not accurately measure the impacts of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on endangered wildlife that includes the Roanoke logperch.

Through the lawsuit, the groups want the agency’s decision to be withdrawn and the project’s impact to be re-evaluated. The groups also demand the construction on the natural gas pipeline to be put on hold until the process is complete.

Sierra Club said that the Mountain Valley Pipeline is yet to get the Clean Water Act authorisation from the Army Corps to cross streams and wetlands, and also does not have the required authorisations from the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Sierra Club staff attorney Elly Benson said: “The fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline puts several endangered species in harm’s way, while serving only to line the pockets of polluting corporations.

“MVP has proven it can’t build this unnecessary pipeline without devastating streams and rivers, as well as the forest habitats of Appalachia. The public should be able to trust that the US Fish and Wildlife Service is making protection of endangered species its highest priority, but it fell short of that obligation here.”

Earlier this year, the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval of the pipeline project which was challenged by various environmental groups.