CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Environmental groups have petitioned to appeal a key regulatory permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
The groups, led by Appalachian Mountain Advocates, contend the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers improperly issued a crucial permit. The environmental groups are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond to review the permit.
Under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the Army Corps is charged with issuing a permit for the pipelines’ stream crossings that allows the project’s builders to trench through the bottom of those streams, including the Greenbrier, Elk, and Gauley Rivers, and fill the crossings with dirt during construction of the pipeline.
Before the Army Corps can issue the permit, the state in which construction will occur must certify the pipeline’s construction will not degrade the state’s water quality.
The permit issued to the Mountain Valley Pipeline by the Army Corps is commonly known as a “nationwide” permit.
The environmental groups contend West Virginia’s Division of Environmental Protection did not complete necessary water quality analysis to allow the nationwide permit to be used.
“Since West Virginia waived its right to do that analysis, the Army Corps can not legally issue the section 404 permit for construction of the pipeline in West Virginia,” the environmental groups stated in a release issued Tuesday evening.
The lawsuit was filed by Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of a coalition made up of the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, Indian Creek Watershed Association, West Virginia Rivers Coalition and Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
“The combination of WVDEP’s waived water quality analysis and the Army Corps’ cookie-cutter approach just doesn’t cut it for a project of this scale,” stated Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.
“This illegal move greatens the risk to West Virginia’s rivers and streams and must be addressed before any construction begins.”
The developers for Mountain Valley Pipeline have said the project really needed to have started by the beginning of February to stay on schedule.
The project still faces several court challenges. A federal judge in Western Virginia placed a stay on an eminent domain case, saying Mountain Valley still has to demonstrate it could pay the property owners just compensation for the easements.
Earlier this month, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied a stay request by environmental groups. The groups contended the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission never should have granted a certificate of public use for the project.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline gained approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in mid-October.
The $3.5 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline would extend 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline over 303 miles to transport West Virginia natural gas into southern Virginia.