Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have filed a lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC (MVP) for alleged environmental violations that occurred during construction in various counties.
The complaint alleges that MVP violated environmental laws and the Section 401 Water Quality Certification issued by the state under the federal Clean Water Act. Seeking the “maximum allowable civil penalties” and a court order to force the project into compliance, the state noted that many of the violations occurred during heavy rainfall this year.
“This suit alleges serious and numerous violations of environmental laws that caused unpermitted impacts to waterways and roads in multiple counties in southwest Virginia,” Herring said. “We’re asking the court for an enforceable order that will help us ensure compliance going forward and for penalties for MVP’s violations.”
The matter was referred to Herring’s office by DEQ Director David Paylor, who said the agency determined referral to the AG’s office “was prudent in order to seek faster resolution to these violations.”
Responding to public complaints, DEQ inspectors identified the violations from May through October in Craig, Franklin, Giles, Montgomery and Roanoke counties. More than 300 violations, mainly related to improper erosion control and stormwater management, were discovered.
Parts of the Appalachian Basin have seen heavy rainfall this year, and land issues have been widely documented as a result. At one point in June, the DEQ and MVP coordinated to temporarily stop construction so soil erosion and sediment control issues that led to standard notices of violation could be addressed.
“The unusually wet conditions and periods of record rainfall this year in Virginia have presented construction challenges, and the MVP project team has worked diligently to ensure appropriate soil erosion and sediment controls were implemented and restored where necessary along the route,” MVP project spokesperson Natalie Cox said.
She added that MVP “appreciates the guidance” of DEQ and said “MVP will continue to comply with the relevant laws and regulations related to the safe and responsible construction of this important infrastructure project in order to meet public demand for natural gas.”
The lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Henrico County. It alleges 10 violations, including unpermitted discharges, failure to maintain and repair erosion control structures and failure to maintain access roads.
The state’s announcement is the latest in a series of obstacles for the project. MVP has been pestered by ongoing legal challenges, permit issues, work stoppages and inclement weather. The project’s cost estimate has already been raised by about $1 billion to $4.6 billion. Service on the system has been pushed back twice in recent months, once from 4Q2018 to 1Q2019, and then again to 4Q2019.
The 300-mile, 2 Bcf/d MVP would move Appalachian natural gas to markets in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic via an interconnect with the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line in southwestern Virginia.