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Enviros Want West Virginia's MVP Water Certification Scrapped

Five environmental groups have filed a petition for review in federal court asking that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s (WVDEP) water quality certification (WQC) for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) be vacated because they claim the agency ignored the project’s threats to the state’s environment.

The groups argue that the agency’s review of the project’s WQC application failed to consider the effects construction and operation in upland areas would have on streams. The groups said the agency gave “short shrift” to its analysis and disregarded the thousands of public comments received during the process. The agency issued the pipeline’s certification in March.

The Sierra Club, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Appalachian Voices and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The court challenge is the latest effort to frustrate pipeline construction at the state level, as environmental groups have targeted both MVP and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Virginia. New York state has also denied WQC for the Northern Access expansion project and the Constitution Pipeline, which has slowed those projects considerably.

The environmental groups claim the WVDEP review was “arbitrary and capricious.” In response to 150 pages of transcripts from public hearings and the thousands of public comments, the groups noted that WVDEP issued only a seven-page letter, responding with “surprising brevity.”

The petition, filed earlier this week, comes after the agency denied environmentalists’ hearing request to appeal the WQC in May. In a letter, WVDEP Secretary Austin Caperton denied the hearing under state law, which gives him, rather than a regulatory board, discretion over the matter. Caperton, who formerly worked as a consultant for the coal industry, has faced criticism from environmental groups in the state.

MVP spokeswoman Natalie Cox said she could not comment on pending litigation. The court docket indicates DEP has until Sept. 14 to file a response brief, while MVP has intervened and has requested until Oct. 5 to file its brief.

The 300-mile MVP would originate in Wetzel County, WV, and move up to 2 Bcf/d of Marcellus and Utica Shale natural gas to an interconnect with the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line in Virginia for delivery to the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a favorable final environmental impact statement for the project in June and it is expected to receive a certificate later this year. The pipeline would traverse roughly 200 miles of West Virginia, and cross 631 miles of stream and more than 400 wetlands, with some of it passing through mountainous terrain.

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