CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Environmental Protection has lifted its previous suspension of the agency’s stormwater permit for the $3.5 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline, state DEP Secretary Austin Caperton said Wednesday on MetroNews “Talkline.”
“We lifted the suspension and we are complete in all of our process at this point,” Caperton said.
The permit is one of the final approvals needed for MVP developers who received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in August.
The DEP suspended the stormwater permit in September after some issues were raised during a public comment period. Caperton said DEP experts have worked in recent weeks to shore up the safeguards.
“This is a case where the public review and comment system worked especially well,” Caperton said. “This summer, after months of diligent work, WVDEP put forth for public review and comment a draft certification and permit for the MVP pipeline. As a result of some of the issues that were included in those public comments, our agency developed a revised strategy that will better utilize the state storm water permit to provide significantly stronger safeguards for the waters of West Virginia.”
Caperton expressed extreme confidence in the project during his “Talkline” interview.
“We feel very comfortable that this pipeline can be installed in an environmentally sound manner and the environmental impacts will ultimately be zero,” Caperton said.
One of the new conditions, according to Caperton, has to do with limestone in three counties.
“These special conditions are to guard against any harm to limestone formations in Monroe, Summers and Greenbrier counties,” Caperton said.
The pipeline would go through Wetzel, Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Braxton, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Fayette, Summers, and Monroe counties to transport West Virginia natural gas to out-of-state markets.
In its approval, FERC said it determined “that construction and operation of the projects would result in limited adverse environmental impacts, with the exception of impacts on forest. We conclude that approval of the projects would result in some adverse environmental impacts, but the majority of these impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.”
MVP still needs its permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers but Caperton predicts that should be a “done deal” because of work that’s taken place thus far.
That national permit covers stream crossings. The state stormwater permit covers the entire length of the pipeline.
Caperton said permits aren’t meant to be obstacles but rather to insure development in a responsible way.
“If somebody comes in and has a project and they present a plan and it meets all of our technical requirements then we issue them a permit,” Caperton said.
The DEP decision can be appealed in the next 30 days.
A coalition of environmental groups said Wednesday it was exploring legal strategies.
“Instead of protecting West Virginia’s water, DEP has sold us down the river. They had one job to do and they failed to do it, leaving our water in the hands of the federal government and out-of-state corporate polluters who are more interested in making money than protecting West Virginians,” Sierra Club West Virginia Chapter Gas Committee Chair Justin Raines said in a news release. “If we can’t trust our own state to protect our water, health and tourism, who can we trust to do it? Governor Justice and his DEP have let us all down by abandoning the responsibilities we trusted them with.”
Caperton said the DEP’s top priority going forward is taking care of those who live along the construction route.
“We are committed to doing that,” Caperton said.
The pipeline developers have been seeking approval since 2014. The developers include EQT Midstream Partners; NextEra; Con Edison Transmission; WGL Midstream; and RGC Midstream
The Mountain Valley Pipeline would extend new 42-inch natural gas pipeline over 303.5 miles. The project also involves three new compressor stations.