Federal court remands Mountain Valley Pipeline water quality permit to West Virginia agency
- The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday remanded a water permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline to West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for additional review so the project can comply with section 401 of the Clean Water Act.
- The DEP moved last month to vacate a water quality certificate issued to the project in order to "re-evaluate the complete application," officials said, following environmental groups' allegations the agency failed to perform a complete review.
- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week approved the 300-mile Mountain Valley pipeline project in a 2-1 vote. The EQT Corp. project is designed to provide up to 2 million dekatherms per day of firm transmission capacity to markets in the Mid- and South Atlantic regions of the United States.
FERC's approval of the Mountain Valley pipeline was also a rejection of calls for a broader, "programmatic" evaluation of pipeline proposals. Mountain Valley was approved alongside the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which has a similar route and customer base — as Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur noted in her dissent. This action, however, also highlights how some state regulatory agencies are facing pressure from stakeholders to examine these proposals more thoroughly.
The Charleston Gazette reports the move by the court highlights DEP's failure to review the pipeline project under the state's stream anti-degradation policy. The policy requires the DEP to ensure all uses of waterways are protected, and protect against degradation
Now, challenged by a coalition of environmental groups including Sierra Club, West Virginia regulators essentially want to restart the process. Public interest law firm Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed that challenge on behalf of the five organizations.
Sierra Club West Virginia Chapter Gas Committee Chair Justin Raines said the court's decision gives DEP the chance to "fulfill its responsibility and conduct a comprehensive and adequate review of the threats posed to our water quality."
The Mountain Valley project is a natural gas pipeline system running more than 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, with 192 miles winding through West Virginia. Other groups challenging the DEP's approval included: West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Appalachian Voices, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
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