Virginia’s State Water Control Board (SWCB) plans to hold a hearing to decide whether to revoke Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC’s (MVP) state-issued water quality permit, creating even more regulatory uncertainty for a project that has faced numerous setbacks.
According to a notice from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VA DEQ), the SWCB in a meeting last Thursday approved a motion to “conduct a hearing to consider the revocation” of MVP’s Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification. As of Monday, officials had not announced a date for the hearing.
The move comes less than a week after Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and VA DEQ filed a lawsuit alleging MVP violated its Section 401 permit. The lawsuit alleges “serious and numerous violations of environmental laws that caused unpermitted impacts to waterways and roads” in multiple counties in the southwestern portion of the state.
VA DEQ issued the Section 401 permit to MVP last year, but not without some controversy over its handling of the review process.
The SWCB decision also follows a series of unfavorable legal and regulatory decisions this year scrutinizing the MVP’s Nationwide Permit 12 water crossing authority granted through the Army Corps of Engineers.
Whether or not this latest setback will impact MVP’s construction progress remains unclear. Last week the company reaffirmed that it’s on track to meet a targeted late 2019 in-service date, announcing that it now expects to have 70% of the project finished by the end of this month.
“Mountain Valley appreciates and respects the comprehensive permitting process established by the SWCB and VA DEQ,” Cox said when asked about the board’s decision to reconsider the Section 401 permit. “Since the onset of the MVP project, we have worked to design a route with the least overall impact to landowners and communities; and to preserve and protect sensitive species, historical resources, and the environment.
“In doing so, MVP has worked closely with state and federal environmental agencies to provide accurate, comprehensive information that would allow for a thorough environmental review of the project. We will continue to work with the VA DEQ and the SWCB to address any additional concerns.”
Analysts with Washington, DC-based Height Capital Markets said MVP’s late 2019 target in-service date remains “achievable.”
Still, the “revocation of the 401 certificate, should the board take that step, would put pressure on this timeline.”
MVP is a joint venture of Equitrans, which recently separated from EQT Corp.’s upstream business, NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream LLC. The pipeline is designed to move 2 Bcf/d of Appalachian gas from West Virginia to Virginia and connect with the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line to deliver more volumes to Southeast markets.