MVP Was Granted Illegal Stream Crossing Permits in West Virginia

by Duane Nichols on October 3, 2018

Mountain Valley Pipeline in Blue Ridge Mountains

The 4th Circuit Court vacates Mountain Valley Pipeline permit on stream crossings

From an Article by Ken Ward, Jr., Charleston Gazette-Mail, October 2, 2018

A federal appeals court on Tuesday vacated a key Clean Water Act permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, saying regulators lacked legal authority to “substitute” one kind of construction standard for another that was more friendly to the natural gas pipeline project.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a three-page, unanimous and unsigned order four days after hearing oral arguments in a case brought by the Sierra Club, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and other citizen organizations over federal approval of the 300-mile-long pipeline from Wetzel County, West Virginia, into Pittsylvania County, Virginia.

The order offered few details on the court’s reasoning and said its ruling would “be more fully explained in a forthcoming opinion.”

The court did say that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “lacked authority” to substitute one type of requirement for construction of pipeline river crossings for an existing standard that environmental groups had argued in court could not be used by Mountain Valley Pipeline.

The pipeline’s plans for river crossings that would take four to six weeks to complete — across the Elk, Gauley, Meadow and Greenbrier rivers — violated an existing 72-hour state time limit for such work, the environmental groups said.

Tuesday’s ruling came in one of several cases that the 4th Circuit heard arguments on last week over the MVP project and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, two major natural gas transmission lines the industry says are key for its continued expansion in the Marcellus Shale region of Northern West Virginia.

In August, a joint examination by the Gazette-Mail and the nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica outlined ways in which state and federal regulators were changing their rules to speed pipeline approval and construction when legal issues were raised about the projects.

“Rules and regulations have routinely been waived, changed and ignored to accommodate the pipeline with catastrophic effects to the region’s water, environment safety and property rights,” said Monroe County resident Maury Johnson, a member of several groups opposing the pipeline. “Simply stated, the agencies that are suppose to protect citizens from the overreach of a mega-corporation have failed. They haven’t done their jobs.”

MVP spokeswoman Natalie Cox said the company is disappointed with the court ruling and is “evaluating options” to continue construction activities that don’t include stream crossings.

Officials from the Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday evening.

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