The Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which have triggered growing opposition and controversy across Virginia and beyond this year, were both dealt major legal setbacks today.
On the Mountain Valley project, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and the state Department of Environmental Quality filed a lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, based on repeated violations of state water laws. The complaint says that DEQ and third-party inspectors observed multiple violations in Craig, Franklin, Giles, Montgomery, and Roanoke counties related to erosion and sediment control failures during construction of the project this spring and summer, including unpermitted discharges into surface waters.
According to the Attorney General’s press release, DEQ Director David Paylor has promised the agency will “pursue the full course of action necessary to enforce Virginia’s environmental standards and to protect our natural resources,” but the announcement makes no mention whether DEQ will issue a stop work order to MVP.
On the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stayed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s revised permit (called a Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement) which would have allowed Dominion Energy to construct the pipeline through habitat identified as critical for certain threatened or endangered species. The same court struck down the original permit issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service in an August 6 opinion.
Following the court order this morning, Dominion filed notice with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that it is suspending all construction activity along the entirety of the 600-mile route (except as needed for safety and to prevent environmental damage).
Peter Anderson, Appalachian Voices, Virginia Program Manager:
“The Attorney General and DEQ should be commended for enforcing Virginia’s clean water laws, but this reinforces what opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have said all along—it is impossible to build this pipeline in compliance with water quality laws. We remain extremely disappointed that Virginia approved the MVP in the first place. We saw this coming.
As for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the court’s decision is a strong rebuke of attempts by both Dominion and the Trump administration to ram this project through.
We firmly believe that stop work orders should be issued immediately for both pipelines.”
Lara Mack, Appalachian Voices, Virginia Field Coordinator:
“Gratitude goes first and foremost to the many landowners and volunteers who have monitored construction on the MVP for the last seven months and documented dozens of violations. We’re thankful that state officials have finally gotten serious about enforcement, but if it hadn’t been for those volunteers, we may not have seen this action. Because the agency has been so ill-prepared for these projects, there are scores of volunteers ready to do the same monitoring if the ACP begins construction.”
Cat McCue, Communications Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 434-293-6373