Law firm disputes W.Va. water quality permit for pipeline
From an Article by Duncan Adams, Roanoke Times, April 11, 2017
An environmental law firm contends that a West Virginia state agency acted prematurely, relied on incomplete information and otherwise erred last month when granting a water quality permit for the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Appalachian Mountain Advocates, headquartered in Lewisburg, West Virginia, last week notified the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection that the nonprofit law firm seeks a hearing to dispute the department’s issuance in March of an individual 401 water quality certification for the natural gas pipeline project.
The permit allows the pipeline and related access roads to cross streams and wetlands in the project area in West Virginia, where the pipeline would be about 195 miles long.
A nine-page letter from lawyer Derek Teaney to Scott Mandirola, director of the West Virginia agency’s division of water and waste management, detailed a host of objections about the department’s decision to grant the water quality permit.
Among other concerns, Appalachian Mountain Advocates alleged:
- The department had not established current water quality baseline data for streams that the pipeline would cross.
- The department had failed to adequately consider impacts to water quality from land disturbance and subsequent erosion and sediment unrelated to stream crossings.
- Because the pipeline’s route is not yet final and property surveys are incomplete, the “locations and effects of discharges associated with the construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline [are] ill-defined and impossible to fully evaluate.”
- The department had not adequately evaluated the effects on public drinking water supplies of the pipeline’s construction and operation.
The letter advised Mandirola that Appalachian Mountain Advocates requested the hearing on behalf of 14 individuals – whose properties are either on a current route of the 42-inch diameter buried pipeline or otherwise at risk of being directly affected by the project – and three organizations.
One of the organizations was the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. In an email, Angie Rosser, its executive director, described the outcome sought by the request for a hearing.
“First, WVDEP must go back and require the applicant to submit a complete application,” Rosser said. “That will make it even more obvious that a project of this scale cannot avoid causing or contributing to water quality standards violations.”
She said water quality certification for the pipeline cannot be justified.
“This pipeline threatens some of the most sensitive and ecologically valuable headwaters streams in the state,” Rosser said. “The WVDEP can’t get this wrong.”
Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for Mountain Valley Pipeline, said the company’s project team and department of environmental protection staff worked diligently to develop comprehensive plans for constructing the pipeline with the least possible impact on streams and wetlands in West Virginia.
“We respect the various opinions of those who may not support the MVP project and remain confident that MVP construction plans, as submitted to the WVDEP for evaluation and public comment, will protect wetlands and streams and meet water quality standards as outlined in the 401 certification process,” Cox said in an email.
The letter from Teaney describes the concerns of three landowners whose two properties in Summers County, West Virginia, are adjacent to the Greenbrier River, which the pipeline will cross. The landowners worry that the project will increase sedimentation and be a source of other pollution in the river.
Separately, the letter reports that landowner Landcey Ragland in Monroe County worries the pipeline would pollute Slate Run, described as “the sole source of drinking water for his livestock.”
Maury Johnson, a Monroe County farmer, also fears the pipeline could affect Slate Run and, ultimately, the well for his home, the letter says.
Teaney declined to talk about the request for a hearing, citing Appalachian Mountain Advocates’ policy restricting comment about pending legal cases.
Under West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection regulations, the agency is not obligated to hold the administrative hearing sought by the organization and its clients. If the department declines the request, Appalachian Mountain Advocates could decide to file a lawsuit and ask a judge to weigh in.
See also: Greenbrier River Watershed Association
See also: Appalachian Mountain Advocates