West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Agrees to Take a Tougher Look at Disputed Pipeline

Environmental and Public Health Advocates Secure Crucial Victory Against Mountain Valley Pipeline

 

CHARLESTON, WV — Today, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) filed a motion in federal court to invalidate its earlier approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Under section 401 of the Clean Water Act, individual states must certify that interstate gas pipelines will not have significant effects on water quality before construction can begin.

“We applaud the West Virginia DEP for recognizing that the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline is a threat to our state’s water and natural beauty,” said Sierra Club West Virginia Chapter Gas Committee Chair Justin Raines. “Our rivers and streams make West Virginia a beautiful place for residents and visitors alike and preserving them also preserves what we love about our state. The fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline is dirty, dangerous and needlessly endangers West Virginia’s waterways, wilderness, and communities, and it should be rejected.”

West Virginia had previously granted the MVP its 401 certification before environmental groups challenged it in court. Attorneys with the public interest law firm Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed the challenge on behalf of a coalition that included the Sierra Club, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Appalachian Voices, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network. DEP agreed that it needed to reconsider MVP’s application involving 631 stream crossings, and today, officially asked the court to grant a voluntary remand and set aside its previous certification. DEP’s motion came just a day before it would have been required to defend its certification in federal court.

“We’re pleased that DEP recognized its 401 certification was defective,” said Derek Teaney, Senior Attorney at Appalachian Mountain Advocates who represented the environmental groups, “but it’s a shame that it took a lawsuit to get DEP to do its job.”

“We’re glad DEP is acting on what we’ve said all along – consideration of MVP requires much more thorough information and review,” said West Virginia Rivers Coalition Executive Director Angie Rosser. “With DEP recently citing several pipeline projects for damaging our streams, it’s impossible to imagine that this massive pipeline will not impact water quality.  They’ve got to get this right.”  

“Water is life isn’t just a slogan for West Virginians who depend on healthy wells, springs, streams and ponds for their families, farms and wildlife—it’s a reality,” said Judy Azulay, President of Indian Creek Watershed Association. “For three years, ICWA and local landowners have been alerting DEP about how this pipeline threatens to degrade critical water resources. Experts have called portions a ‘no build zone’. We hope that DEP will finally agree that no best management practices can make this pipeline safe for West Virginia waters.”

“DEP is right to take a closer look at the MVP’s impacts to hundreds of West Virginia streams and rivers,” said Anne Havemann, General Counsel for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “At a minimum, DEP should deny the current application and demand that the MVP’s proponents provide basic information about the impacted streams and how pollution from the MVP will change those streams. Right now, the pipeline company hasn’t given the agency enough information for it to do its job. Ultimately, we believe that a thorough review will show that the MVP cannot be constructed and operated without illegal violations of state water quality standards.”

“A project the size and nature of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is unprecedented in the mountains of West Virginia,” said Peter Anderson, Virginia Program Manager for Appalachian Voices.  “It poses a clear threat to water resources and the residents who rely on them, so it’s a positive sign that the DEP is taking a second look at water impacts. We expect the agency will use this opportunity to do right by all West Virginia citizens and fulfill its duty to protect state waters.”

If the Court grants DEP’s motion, it will be a major setback to the MVP project and could cause a significant delay in its construction.

 

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About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

 

About the West Virginia Rivers Coalition

West Virginia Rivers Coalition is a statewide non-profit organization promoting the conservation and restoration of West Virginia’s exceptional rivers and streams. Since 1989, it has served as the statewide voice for clean, healthy waters for all to use and enjoy. For more information, visit www.wvrivers.org.

About Indian Creek Watershed Association

Indian Creek Watershed Association is a non-profit community based organization whose mission is to preserve and protect Monroe County’s abundant, pure water. For more information, visit www.IndianCreekWatershedAssociation.org.

 

About the Chesapeake Climate Action Network

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) is the first grassroots, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to fighting global warming in the Chesapeake region. Our mission is to build a diverse movement powerful enough to put our region on the path to climate stability. We envision an equitable energy future where truly clean sources of power — efficiency, solar and wind — sustain every aspect of our lives, and dirty fossil fuels are phased out. For more information, visit www.chesapeakeclimate.org.

 

About Appalachian Voices

Appalachian Voices is a leading force in America’s energy transformation, working at the nexus of the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy for the 21st Century.  As a grassroots and advocacy organization rooted deeply in Appalachia, we defend the region from mountaintop removal coal mining, fracked-gas pipeline building, and other harmful practices while promoting clean energy sources that generate local jobs and community wealth, and sustain Appalachia’s incomparable natural heritage.

 

About Appalachian Mountain Advocates

Appalachian Mountain Advocates is a non-profit law and policy center dedicated to fighting for clean water and a clean energy future. Appalmad has a long history of winning precedent-setting court cases and negotiating costly settlements. The organization has secured hundreds of millions of dollars towards conserving natural areas and treating polluted water. We have worked for more that 15 years to ensure that the fossil fuel industry cannot continue to dump its costs of doing business onto the public. For more information, visit www.appalmad.org.

Contact: Doug Jackson, 202.495.3045 or doug.jackson@sierraclub.org

Angie Rosser, 304.437.1274 or arosser@wvrivers.org

Derek Teaney, 304.793.9007 or dteaney@appalmad.org

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