Mountain Valley Pipeline Project Now Under Appeal in the US District Court

by Duane Nichols on June 11, 2017

View of MVP simulation at Giles High School, Pearisburg, VA

Environmental groups ask court to review W.Va. decision to issue pipeline water quality permit

From an Article by Duncan Adams, Roanoke Times, June 9, 2017

Five environmental watchdog organizations filed a petition Friday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that seeks a review of a water quality permit issued in West Virginia for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline.

The petitioners, represented by Appalachian Mountain Advocates, are contesting the issuance of the permit in March by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

The law firm had previously requested that the department hold a hearing to allow it to dispute the permit. The DEP denied that request in May.

The individual 401 water quality certification permit would allow the 42-inch diameter buried pipeline and related access roads to cross streams and wetlands in West Virginia, where the pipeline would be about 196 miles long and be served by about 147 miles of temporary and permanent access roads.

According to the DEP, the pipeline’s construction would involve 631 stream crossings and 424 wetlands crossings.

Derek Teaney, a lawyer with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, said that the federal appeals court is the proper venue for the petition according to the federal Natural Gas Act. He said the petition likely will trigger the court to respond with a schedule for the case, including deadlines for the filing of motions and briefs.

The petitioners are the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Appalachian Voices, the Sierra Club, the Indian Creek Watershed Association and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

“West Virginia communities have already suffered enough as a result of fracking, and building the Mountain Valley Pipeline would lock in decades more of this reckless practice and the environmental destruction that comes with it,” Deb Self of the Sierra Club said in a news release.

“This pipeline threatens to do irreparable harm to Appalachia’s treasured streams and forested hillsides, and it is critical that the state thoroughly examine these impacts rather than rubber-stamping a project that is bad for our communities and our environment.”

Recently, there has been controversy in Virginia, where the Department of Environmental Quality recently clarified that it will not review stream and wetlands crossings as part of its approach to considering whether to issue an individual 401 water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline and separate but similar Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Instead, the DEQ said it will look more at “uplands” effects on water quality, such as runoff from steep slopes and potential problems in areas of karst landscapes that include sinkholes and caves, and will rely on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review stream and wetlands crossings.

Ironically, critics of the certification in West Virginia contend that the state’s DEP failed to adequately consider these sorts of uplands effects.

Among other concerns expressed about the DEP permit, Appalachian Mountain Advocates has alleged:

  • The department did not establish current water quality baseline data for streams that the pipeline would cross.
  • The department failed to adequately consider effects on water quality from land disturbance and subsequent erosion 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 did not adequately evaluate the effects of the pipeline’s construction and operation on public drinking water supplies.

Jake Glance, a spokesman for the West Virginia DEP, could not be reached Friday for comment.

As proposed, the Mountain Valley Pipeline would transport natural gas at high pressure from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to the Transco pipeline in Pittsylvania County, passing through 11 counties in West Virginia and six in Virginia.

As an interstate pipeline, the 303-mile, $3.5 billion Mountain Valley project needs approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before construction can begin.

The project also needs to secure other required permits and will need to be granted a right-of-way permit by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to cross about 3.4 miles of the Jefferson National Forest.

Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for Mountain Valley, could not be reached Friday for comment about the environmental groups’ petition.

Pipeline opponents have noted that New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has denied 401 water quality certification permits for two major natural gas pipeline projects, alleging that their construction would violate state water quality standards.

The two projects, the Constitution Pipeline and the Northern Access Pipeline, have appealed the New York decisions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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See also:  Appalachian Voices article here

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Indian Creek June 11, 2017 at 10:35 pm

Indian Creek Watershed Association pipeline statement:

Indian Creek Watershed Association is very concerned about the impact of the two proposed pipelines on the water and watershed areas. The large size and scale of the pipes and required easement corridors; the numerous stream crossings, including in sensitive limestone and karst areas; and the erosion and run-off from vertical cuts over ridges and Peters Mountain—all of these put our watersheds at serious risk and threaten the quality of life unique to Monroe County. There must be a very transparent review and decision-making process that both solicits and takes into consideration the concerns of everyone affected.

As the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) considers its environmental impact study of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) routes, a county-wide effort is under way to help landowners to identify and protect their property, as well as the resources of Monroe County.

The Indian Creek Watershed Association (ICWA) is helping Monroe County landowners gather information to be used to help protect our environment and culture from the the threat of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

This information on-line form is for everyone who wants to send in information to protect their property. No one really knows where the pipeline might cross our valley — the original path, alternate path or somewhere else.

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