Latest News, WVPA Sharing

Mountain Valley Pipeline approval faces new federal court challenge

The Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Mountain Valley Pipeline is headed back to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

On Friday, the Sierra Club and three other groups filed a petition with the 4th Circuitto challenge a key approval of the pipeline by state regulators in Virginia.

The move comes one day after the Virginia State Water Control Board granted the MVP project — a 300-mile, $3.7 billion natural gas pipeline from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Pittsylvania County, Virginia — a water quality certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

Other groups filing the legal challenge were Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Wild Virginia. The citizen groups are represented by lawyers from Appalachian Mountain Advocates.

In a news release, the citizen groups said Virginia officials did not adequately consider the potential environmental effects of the pipeline, noting, specifically, concerns about “significant harmful sedimentation in the steep, landslide-prone terrain crossed by the MVP” and that sediment control plans for similar pipelines have failed to prevent pollution problems in other states with much less challenging terrain.

“The Mountain Valley Pipeline will cause severe sediment pollution in streams, springs, and waterways across Virginia, and not a single foot of pipe should be laid before the Commonwealth conducts a comprehensive analysis of the MVP’s water quality impacts,” said Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Director Kelly Martin.

The Section 401 certification by Virginia for MVP is a determination by state regulators there that the pipeline, as approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will not violate state water quality standards. The federal Clean Water Act gives states the authority to make such determinations, by either certifying such projects, denying the certification, mandating certain conditions be met, or waiving the Section 401 authority. Under the Natural Gas Act, a federal law, appeals of 401 certifications concerning pipelines go to the appropriate federal appeals circuit court.

In West Virginia, the Department of Environmental Protection earlier this year had granted its own water quality certification for MVP. Citizen groups challenged that approval with a petition filed at the 4th Circuit.

Just days before DEP lawyer Jason Wandling was due to respond to the citizen group legal challenge, West Virginia officials pulled back the certification, promising additional evaluation of the project.

Then, last month, the DEP announced that it had decided to waive West Virginia’s authority to determine if the MVP project would violate state water quality standards. DEP Secretary Austin Caperton said at the time that the DEP was convinced that “the environmental impacts ultimately will be zero.”

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at [email protected], 304-348-1702 or follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter