Another round of litigation against the Mountain Valley pipeline is escalating, this time following the State Water Control Board’s vote earlier this month to allow infrastructure to cross streams and wetlands.
The Sierra Club and eight other environmental and community groups filed a motion late in the day on Dec. 22 with the U.S. 4th Court of Appeals, asking the court to review the board’s decision.
Legal reasons were not included in the two-page document; these will be specified in future documents.
But opponents of the pipeline have long criticized the board of directors and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which they say failed to prevent pipeline construction from damaging natural resources – first in 2017, and more recently with a second license.
“MVP’s dirty and hazardous pipeline project has already impacted the air and water quality along the route, causing major environmental degradation, as well as public health issues for residents. communities, ”Caroline Hansley, lead organizer of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. .
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Opponents say Mountain Valley should not be allowed to continue its track record of nearly 400 erosion and sediment control regulatory violations in southwest Virginia.
Mountain Valley maintains that the problems, largely caused by heavy rainfall in 2018, have been corrected.
“We believe that the Court’s review of the work carried out by the VA DEQ over the past year will find that the agency has met or exceeded all legal and regulatory requirements, and that the agency’s action will be maintained, ”company spokeswoman Natalie Cox wrote in an email. .
Joining the Sierra Club in the latest challenge are: Appalachian Voices, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Preserve Bent Mountain, Preserve Craig County, Preserve Franklin County, Preserve Giles County and Wild Virginia.
The Fourth Circuit has been a frequent battleground for pipelines, Mountain Valley and the government agencies that regulate it often suffer setbacks.
So far, however, there has not been a fatal blow to the $ 6.2 billion project. Five energy companies building the pipeline say it is necessary to deliver 2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas to markets along the east coast.
Panels of three appeals court judges twice revoked a US Army Corps of Engineers general permit, which would have allowed the pipeline to cross nearly 1,000 bodies of water along its 303-mile course to through West Virginia and Virginia.
After the second loss, Mountain Valley decided to apply for a different type of permit which required a more detailed study of each crossing. Both state approval is required before the corps can issue a permit for the remaining passages. West Virginia has until December 31 to act.
The water board’s 3-2 vote on Dec. 14 applied to about 150 streams and wetlands in the six counties of Virginia crossed by the buried pipeline: Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania.
Getting from one side of a stream to the other hasn’t been Mountain Valley’s only legal challenge.
In 2018, shortly after work began on the long-delayed project, the Fourth Circuit invalidated a permit for the pipeline to pass through Jefferson National Forest. The court ruled that the Forest Service was too accepting of the company’s assurances that forest erosion was not a major problem.
The following year, the same court suspended the advice of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which determined that the installation of a 42-inch diameter pipe along steep slopes and through pristine bodies of water would not endanger endangered species.
The two agencies have since reissued permits, only to be sued again by the coalition of environmental groups. The Fourth Circuit heard oral argument on October 29. Decisions are expected in the coming days or weeks.