Mountain Valley Pipeline Approval: 5 Things You Should Know

WVDEP’s Mountain Valley Pipeline Decision – What We Know

In September the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection vacated their previously issued 401 Water Quality Certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline and suspended its stormwater permit.

WVDEP told a federal court it “determined that the information used to issue the Section 401 Certification needs to be further evaluated and possibly enhanced.”

After a month and a half of assuming WVDEP was carrying out their further evaluation and enhancements, WVDEP announced their decision to completely waive their authority altogether to issue the 401 Water Quality Certification, essentially giving up jurisdiction to determine whether or not the MVP would meet West Virginia’s water quality standards. Coupled with the 401 waiver was a lifting of the suspension of the stormwater permit, giving the green light from WVDEP to construct the pipeline.

Like you, and others in the media, WV Rivers is questioning what these decisions mean for West Virginia streams in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Here are five things we know now:

1. The WVDEP 401 Water Quality Certification waiver is unprecedented. When WVDEP waived their authority to issue a 401 Water Quality Certification they passed critical enforcement responsibilities on to federal regulators. It’s an unprecedented move and it’s a decision that could have far reaching implications for other pipeline projects.

2. There were updates made to the stormwater permit. In mid-September when WVDEP vacated their 401 Certification, they also suspended the MVP’s stormwater permit, which controls sedimentation and erosion. We’re scrutinizing the revised permit to see if it will live up to WVDEP’s assurance that Mountain Valley Pipeline’s “environmental impacts ultimately will be zero.

3. WV Rivers is intent on getting answers from WVDEP. One day after WVDEP announced their decision regarding the MVP, WV Rivers met with Cabinet Secretary Caperton and agency heads to get more information on the reasons behind WVDEP’s decision. We are independently verifying what we learned and will be holding WVDEP accountable to its claims.

4. Reviewing the documents associated with the MVP 401 Certification waiver and the stormwater permit will take time. We are currently reviewing about 300 pages of highly technical documents. Although the stormwater permit was issued last Tuesday, it took a week for the WVDEP to make all of the associated documents publicly available. We’ll keep you up to date on what we find as we dissect the permits.

5. The deeper we dive into the permits the more questions we have. During the last 24 hours we’ve already uncovered contradictory and incomplete information regarding water quality monitoring requirements. It also appears that an anti-degradation review of impacted waters will not be conducted. We plan to follow-up with WVDEP to clarify these questions.

Right now, we are still fact-finding and gathering all the information for a full analysis. You can count on us to keep you up to date as we continue to understand the implications WVDEP’s decisions have on water quality.

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