December 16, 2021

More Determined than Ever

A Water Control Board Approval on MVP is Not the End of the Story!

Many of you will have heard the unfortunate news that the Virginia State Water Control Board voted 3 to 2 to approve a proposal for Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) to cut and blast through hundreds of our valuable waters. You should know though that MVP still has a number of big hurdles to clear and unless it gets over all of them it can never finish this project. That’s why Wild Virginia and our allies are not slowing in our fight to protect the many valuable and sensitive environments we still have to save from the pipeline’s destructive impacts.

I’ll describe some of those other ongoing processes that can trip up the pipeline builders, but first a bit more about the Board’s decision on December 14th. There was a mountain of evidence before the Board, through public comments and documents that should have compelled them to reject this deeply flawed proposal. Part of that evidence came from the Peoples’ Hearing we helped conduct and a summary of the comments submitted to fill gaps in the record that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) should have filled.

The Board’s Action

Still, DEQ was able to convince a majority of the Board members present that there was a “reasonable assurance” that MVP could meet all of our water protection requirements. We can thank two Board members, Paula Jasinski and Ryan Seiger, for dissenting and standing up for the public’s interests.

It’s important to know that DEQ presented information that was woefully incomplete and inaccurate on a number of issues, surely contributing to the bad decision. One of the most important dealt with MVP’s deplorable record of breaking water quality protection rules.

Wild Virginia just released a report, Documenting the Damage, which showed that MVP has violated the requirements more than 1,500 times and damaged dozens of streams and wetlands by dumping mud into them. And in hundreds of cases MVP simply failed to install the pollution controls they’d promised to build in accordance with plans DEQ approved. When we tried to get this information to the Board, the DEQ refused to pass it along through the official channels and then downplayed the violations in its presentations during the meeting.

Our Efforts Continue on Every Front

The same information we supplied the state has also been given to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a federal permit review under the Clean Water Act. MVP cannot go forward with waterbody crossings, despite the Water Board’s approval, unless it can get the Corps’ approval as well (and a water quality certification from the State of West Virginia). And that decision rests on the same issues that our allies and we have thoroughly addressed already.

Another big decision is pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). MVP has proposed to bore under hundreds of streams, and FERC has to decide whether to allow those risky operations. The current chairman of the Commission has opposed some past approvals on MVP and was joined by another of the five members. Now a new Commissioner will be voting and we have hopes that FERC will now, finally, do the right thing on the pipeline. Rejection of this FERC license amendment would be a huge loss for MVP and create even more reason to abandon the pipeline.

Finally, we still have a number of active lawsuits challenging bad federal agency decisions, including those against the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. The federal appeals court should rule on those cases within the next couple of months and, again, a win in either or both of those would be devastating to MVP’s plans. Remember that the judges have endorsed our arguments on numerous prior occasions, saying these supposed guardians of our resources have failed us.

Stick With Us!

So, while we can all regret the setback in the state’s latest decision, that cannot and will not cause us to relent in our insistence on protecting our wild places from the pipeline’s assault. Your support is now more important than ever. We’ll continue to work for you, our forests, waters, and communities every day. We’ll also keep you informed about the ways you can be effective participants in the fight.

Every wild Virginian counts – please join us if you’re new to the battle or stay with us if you’ve been a supporter.