Changes to Important Water Quality Permit by WVDEP
In their certification, WVDEP must consider the proposed activities authorized by the NWPs and their impact on water resources and aquatic life. WVDEP can place conditions on the permits to provide an extra layer of protection or they can relinquish their authority and rely solely on the NWP to protect the waters.
In October, WVDEP invited public comments on their Water Quality Certification of Nationwide Permit. WV Rivers submitted comments that were supported by 16 other environmental organizations. This month, WVDEP responded to our comments along with the 7 other comment letters they received. WV Rivers was the only environmental organization to submit comments; the other commenters included American Electric Power, Arch Resources, Equitrans Midstream, LP Mineral, WV Coal Association, WV Division of Highways, and WV Oil and Natural Gas Association.
In our comments, we requested WVDEP reinstate some of the conditions that were removed by the Trump administration and WVDEP. In their certification, WVDEP failed to reinstate the protective conditions with one exception: WVDEP had removed a special condition requiring signage on waterbodies near construction sites to warn recreational users of upcoming construction hazards. Upon review of our comments, WVDEP reinstated the signage requirements. While this is a small victory, we are encouraged by by this decision that helps keep recreational river users safe.
Because this is a nationwide permit, other states have prepared their own response to the certification. In Virginia, the Department of Environmental Quality is strengthening the Nationwide Permit 12 by denying certification to pipelines greater than 36 inches. Sadly, although WVDEP reinstated the signage requirement, the majority of WVDEP’s changes weaken the NWP12. Some of WVDEP’s proposed changes to the permit include:
WV Rivers’ scrutiny of changes to regulations that protect our water is essential. We are working to ensure that these regulations remain protective of human health and aquatic life. The Trump administration has succeeded in weakening a lot of those regulations. But, we’re hopeful that some of the regulatory rollbacks will be undone with the incoming Biden administration. Working with our partners we’ll seek opportunities to strengthen clean water protections, such as the Nationwide Permits, to benefit public health, the environment, and the economy.