The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond has upheld Virginia’s much-criticized water quality review for Mountain Valley Pipeline. According to press coverage of the decision in the Roanoke Times and the Virginia Mercury, “The panel of judges rejected arguments from the Sierra Club and other organizations that the State Water Control Board incorrectly found there was a ‘reasonable assurance’ that state water quality standards would be upheld when it issued a certification under the federal Clean Water Act for the project.” The ruling applies to the 500 or more waterbody crossings on the MVP route in Southwest Virginia.
“The construction of the project was exactly that, a large construction project, and the State Agencies very reasonably undertook to protect their waters with the ‘tried and true’ methods developed for just this purpose,” Judge William Traxler wrote for a three-judge panel. “We see no purpose we would serve by stepping in and second-guessing the analytical methods Virginia deemed appropriate to provide it with reasonable assurance that its water quality would be protected,” the 47-page opinion stated.
“We are disappointed in today’s ruling,” the conservation group Wild Virginia said in a statement. “The court relied in large part on the state’s assurances that the requirements in the certification and the enforcement of those requirements would uphold our water quality standards. The facts on the ground in the MVP construction areas in Virginia show all too clearly that those assurances were untrue and unsupportable.”
To date, Virginia’s DEQ has issued six notices of violation against MVP, finding that measures to control muddy runoff were inadequate at construction sites in Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties, and five similar notices of violation have been issued in West Virginia.
Read the full 47-page opinion here.