MVP water crossing permit suspended by federal appeals court

A three-judge panel of the 4thU.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to stay a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Mountain Valley Pipeline to construct all water crossings along the pipeline’s West Virginia route — rather than just the four major river crossings the Corps initially suspended work on.

The Corps had issued what’s called a nationwide permit — a broad permit that’s supposed to only apply to projects with minimal individual and cumulative environmental impacts — to cover hundreds of water crossings along the pipeline’s route through West Virginia and Virginia.

But — on behalf of Sierra Club, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, the Indian Creek Watershed Association, Appalachian Voices and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network — Appalmad argued that MVP couldn’t meet a special condition of Nationwide Permit 12 in West Virginia that construction on stream crossings needed to be complete within 72 hours.

Four of the major river crossings — across the Elk, Gauley, Greenbrier and Meadow rivers — would each take four to six weeks.

In response to Appalmad’s complaint, the Corps agreed to suspend work on those four crossings. Appalmad argued that failure to meet the terms of Nationwide Permit 12 meant work on all 591 stream and wetland crossings covered by the West Virginia portion of the permit should be halted.

The appeals panel agreed. For now, stream and wetland crossings in Virginia aren’t affected by the order, though Appalmad argued in the motion seeking the stay that work on those should also be suspended. “When it comes to NWP 12, one bad apple spoils the bunch,” the motion said. “That is, if even one stream crossing is ineligible for NWP 12, then all the pipeline’s crossings are ineligible.”

In a letter to the chief of the Corps’ Norfolk District sent after the Corps suspended work on the four major river crossings in West Virginia, Appalmad further explained that federal regulations specifically state that a nationwide permit is only appropriate in cases where it can apply to the entire project. Appalmad called for the Norfolk District to suspend its verification of Nationwide Permit 12 for the MVP in Virginia.

The next scheduled action is a court hearing in September.

News coverage of the stay can be found hereand here.