Front Porch Blog

Army Corps reopens Mountain Valley Pipeline application to dump into rivers

Due to all of the feedback and pressure that we and many concerned citizens gave the United States Army Corps of Engineers during the initial 404 comment period for the Mountain Valley Pipeline back in May of this year, the Corps has opened a second comment period for this proposed permit application. This new comment period, which closes on November 19, will feature entirely virtual public hearings held by the Army Corps, allowing for anyone to attend and share their concerns about the impacts to our waters along the pipeline route. These hearings will take place on November 1, 2021 for West Virginia and on November 4, 2021 for Virginia, both beginning at 6 p.m.

Virtual 404 Public Hearings
November 1, 2021 for West Virginia, 6- 8 p.m.
November 4, 2021 for Virginia, 6 – 8 p.m.

To receive a registration link, email Adam Fannin using the links below (click on the email link, then replace text in parentheses with the appropriate information):

West Virginia Participants:
Email CELRP-MVP@usace.army.mil

Virginia Participants:
Email CELRP-MVP@usace.army.mil

More information about the hearings can be found here.

You might be thinking, “Wait—didn’t I just comment on the 404? How is this different from the 401 comment period that is ending this month?” Hopefully, we can answer those questions and explain how this is an incredible opportunity to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

The purpose of this 404 permit is to allow the Mountain Valley Pipeline company and its contractors to dump soil and rocks that they dig up or displace during construction directly into the rivers, streams and wetlands along the route. This permit is part of the Clean Water Act and is required, along with the 401 permit, to do any kind of construction on a large project through waters of the United States and any water feature that is directly adjacent or connected, such as wetlands. The 401 permit deals with a wider range of discharges than just earthen material and is applied for through the state environmental agency (such as the West Virginia Depart of Environmental Protection and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality). The comment period for MVP’s 401 in Virginia closes on October 27, and if you have not participated in that comment period, please take action and sign our petition to the Virginia State Water Control Board.

In the announcement of the new public hearings from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Michael Hatten, Regulatory Division Chief, stated that the Corps would be considering the public’s concerns, including “whether or not the proposed project will be contrary to the public interest.” As defined by the Corps, a project is in the public interest if its favorable outweigh the detrimental impacts. When examining the impacts to the quality of our water resources, the endangered species in our region and the risks that this project would cause for our climate, it is unclear how the Corps could view the project in any way but contrary.

This emphasis could also signal a shift that is underway in a similar federal agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, who were ordered by a federal appeals court in June to scrutinize pipeline projects with “self-dealing” precedent agreements. This concerns an overly abused practice in which the companies that build a pipeline are the same companies that will purchase the gas from the pipeline after construction, and such an arrangement is allowed as a satisfactory proof of the need of a pipeline under the Natural Gas Act. This tactic was used to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline and also for the now-cancelled Atlantic Coast and PennEast pipelines.

In May, Appalachian Voices, along with 200 other supporters, asked the Army Corps for a thorough review of the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s 404 proposal, which would impact many rivers and endangered species. This time around, we believe that MVP’s request for a 404 permit should be denied due to unnecessary and potentially substantial impacts to pristine rivers and wetlands of the Ohio, Little Kanawha, Elk, Gauley, Greenbrier and New River watersheds.

The sedimentation and habitat disruption from the permanent and temporary dumping of material into streams and wetlands—and the construction activities that would produce the material— will likely negatively impact endangered and sensitive aquatic species like the Candy Darter and Roanoke Logperch. These discharges could also lead to downstream impacts on drinking water supplies for many towns and cities across West Virginia and Virginia and affect the recreational uses at many popular locations used for swimming, fishing and paddling.

A new report from Oil Change International addressed to the Biden Administration, presents analysis that the Mountain Valley Pipeline, if granted this permit and completed, would significantly increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The report claims that not allowing this unneeded pipeline’s estimated 89 million metric tons of emissions each year would be one of the easiest ways the Administration, and by extension the Army Corps of Engineers, could tackle accelerated climate change.

During the previous comment period in May, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which stated that the agency “identified a number of substantial concerns with the project as currently proposed, including whether all feasible avoidance and minimization measures have been undertaken, deficient characterization of the aquatic resources to be impacted, insufficient assessment of secondary and cumulative impacts and potential for significant degradation, and the proposed mitigation.”

We, along with our partners, identified the same concerns in our petition to the Army Corps– namely that Mountain Valley Pipeline has not sufficiently outlined how they can safely and properly perform the construction required for this project and have misidentified the natural resources and the impact that the MVP would have on them. For these reasons, as well as the potential impacts described above, we believe that the 404 permit should be denied.

If you live near, recreate in or enjoy the watersheds of the Ohio, Little Kanawha, Elk, Gauley, Greenbrier or New River, we need you to lend your voice and tell the Army Corps how the Mountain Valley Pipeline will impact you at these upcoming virtual hearings.

A graduate of Appalachian State University with a B.S. in ecology and evolutionary biology, Ridge served as our AmeriCorps Outreach Associate from 2015-17 and is now on staff as the Field Coordinator for our North Carolina program.


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