CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A company building a long-delayed natural gas pipeline has lost a key water permit after a federal appeals court ruled that West Virginia didn’t adequately assess the impact of building the Mountain Valley Pipeline across streams and wetlands.
Siding with environmental groups, the court said Monday the state Department of Environmental Protection’s justifications for its 2021 water quality certification were “deficient,” the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.
The 303-mile (487-kilometer) pipeline across rugged mountainsides in West Virginia and Virginia — which is mostly finished — would transport natural gas drilled from the Utica and Marcellus shale formations in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Legal battles have delayed completion for years, as environmental groups say construction has led to violations of regulations meant to control erosion and sedimentation.
Among other things, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the West Virginia agency didn’t adequately address the project’s history of water quality violations. It also said the agency used the wrong standards to support the decision that in-stream activities would meet state water quality regulations. The permit is required under the federal Clean Water Act.
The court noted at least 46 water quality violations and assessed civil penalties totaling roughly $569,000.
Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, the joint venture behind the project, is still aiming for a late 2023 in-service date. Spokesperson Natalie Cox said construction will proceed and the company would work with the state environmental agency “on a path forward to completing this critical infrastructure project safely and responsibly.”
Angie Rosser, who leads the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, praised “the common sense reflected in the court’s decision.”
“MVP has already gone too far in damaging West Virginia’s water resources, particularly in some of our most valuable mountain headwater systems,” Rosser said in a statement.
Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson Terry Fletcher said the agency was reviewing the decision and declined comment.
Sen. Joe Manchin released a statement Tuesday saying the ruling would further delay the pipeline.
“It is infuriating to see the same 4th Circuit Court panel deal yet another setback for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project and once again side with activists who seem hell-bent on killing any fossil energy that will make our country energy independent and secure,” he said.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court signed off on Virginia’s water quality certification for the pipeline last week.