Press Release

Virginia’s draft permit for Mountain Valley Pipeline won’t protect water resources, groups say

CONTACT:

David Sligh, Wild Virginia, david@wildvirginia.org, (434) 964-7455

Cat McCue, Appalachian Voices, cat@appvoices.org, (434) 293-6373

Russell Chisholm, Protect Our Water Heritage Rights, russell@powhr.org, (540) 404-2727

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) today released a draft decision on a request for a water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). This certification request is made under section 401 of the Clean Water Act and a certification is required before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may issue a permit for MVP to cut and blast through hundreds of streams and wetlands. Under state law, the certification is in the form of a Virginia Water Protection Permit.

The DEQ’s recommendation, presented as a draft permit, is that the State Water Control Board issue the certification and allow destruction of our waters and further damage to properties and communities along MVP’s path. This proposal is an abdication of DEQ’s duty to protect Virginians and our precious resources. We now call on the citizen-led State Water Control Board to reject DEQ’s recommendation and deny the certification.

The board must deny the certification because MVP has failed to submit a large body of necessary information about possible impacts on water quality from this destructive project. Without this information, the board cannot assure that state water quality standards will be met—the legal standard that must guide the Board’s decision.

Members of the public and technical experts have provided extensive analysis of MVP’s certification request, independent data, and explanations based on a large body of scientific findings, showing that MVP’s and DEQ’s conclusions are invalid. Claims by the company and DEQ that any negative effects on our waters will be minor and short-term are not credible.

Virginia sued MVP citing more than 300 violations and collected a fine of more than $2 million. But the violations and damages still continue. It is time now for DEQ and the board to perform the kind of stream-by-stream review the public was promised more than six years ago. That has not been done and cannot be done without significantly more data.

It is important to note that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made similar findings about MVP’s proposal in recent comments to the Corps by letter dated May 27. The EPA cited the lack of evaluation for direct, secondary and cumulative impacts. The same reasoning and analysis EPA applied to the Corps permitting action is just as pertinent for Virginia’s review of this 401 permit, and the same recommendation is appropriate.

Notably, DEQ’s fact sheet that was released with the draft permit fails to address the most important problems raised in the EPA comments, omitting any discussion of cumulative impacts on watersheds and including no analysis to show this project can meet Virginia’s antidegradation requirements, among numerous other issues. The board should reject this proposal unless and until MVP provides all of the necessary information and DEQ provides more than unsupported assertions that legal requirements will be met.

David Sligh, Conservation Director for Wild Virginia: “We are confident that a full description of the likely impacts from the remaining work MVP proposes is being withheld for one simple reason – it is abundantly clear that MVP cannot plow through these waterbodies without causing unacceptable damages and violating state and federal laws.”

And, even if it were technically possible to avoid serious harm to the many sensitive species and habitats along the way, MVP’s deplorable record of violating environmental rules since it began work in 2018 shows that it is both unable and unwilling to do the things that would protect against water quality degradation. This is especially true since MVP is in a headlong and reckless rush to get all of its pipe in the ground before continuing court challenges can stop it again.

Roberta Bondurant, Co-chair of Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR): “Virginia regulators need only rely on MVP’s track record as a known polluter to reject this certification request and halt the ongoing harm to water and people. MVP has proven itself a bad actor in the eyes of courts and the public—despite its investment in publicity and attempts to shift blame for its mistakes and misbehavior to the public. We ask the citizens who serve on the water board to fulfill their mission to protect the air, lands, and waters and all species dependent on them.”

The real tragedy in DEQ’s proposal, which we hope and trust the Board will correct, is that this state approval may lead to more pain and cost being heaped upon landowners and water users, compounding the shameful treatment they have already endured.

Peter Anderson, Virginia Policy Director for Appalachian Voices: “MVP’s latest proposal utterly fails to show that the project will comply with Virginia water quality standards. We know this because the company has wreaked havoc on Virginia water resources and communities for years, racking up hundreds of violations—and the steepest, most challenging terrain still remains. The bar is high, and we call on the State Water Control Board to stand up for Virginia waters and the law.”

Lynn Godfrey, Pipeline Organizer with the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter: “MVP has already had hundreds of water quality-related violations in the course of construction of their dangerous fracked gas pipeline. Why should we give them the chance to cause further destruction to our waterways? It’s clear that MVP can’t be trusted to safely build or operate their pipeline. The State Water Control Board must heed the mounting concerns about this dangerous project from EPA and the public and reject its permit to pollute Virginia’s waters.”

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