VA State Water Control Board Grants 401 Certification to MVP

Late in the afternoon on December 7, 2017, after two days of hearings, the Virginia State Water Control Board approved water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The vote was 5-2, with members Roberta Kellam and G. Nissa Dean dissenting. The action came late Tuesday afternoon (December 7). On Monday, nearly 100 persons spoke before the Board. Over 90% of the speakers were in opposition to certification. Modifications to the draft certification document were made, including an amendment that attempts to preserve its right to examine stream crossings at a later date. More on this will follow.

Members of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge alliance (of which Friends of Nelson is a part) reacted swiftly:

  • Southern Environmental Law Center, Greg Buppert, Senior Attorney: “After hearing from numerous citizens and officials that the Water Board did not have the information it needed to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Board failed to insist on a thorough, science-based review of this project. Their decision to move this pipeline project forward reflects the political pressure that Governor McAuliffe has put on his agencies to approve gas pipelines before he leaves office. But the Board still has the chance to acknowledge and remedy this broken process by sending plans back to Dominion next week at the Atlantic Coast Pipeline hearings and reversing today’s decision on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. As Virginia’s watchdog for water quality, the Board must ensure that Dominion doesn’t abuse its political power to push through a risky and unnecessary project like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”
  • Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Statement from Mike Tidwell, Executive Director: “Terry McAuliffe has harmed farmers, consumers, drinking water, and the climate by pushing the Virginia Water Control Board to give final approval today of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The 301-mile pipeline for fracked gas constitutes a colossal misallocation of resources and will permanently harm the Governor’s economic and environmental legacies. “Even as the on-the-ground evidence shows guaranteed harm to Virginia’s watersheds, and even as scientists sound the loudest possible warning bells on climate change, the Water Control Board gave the Governor what he asked for: a final build recommendation. This decision paves the way for the literal obliteration of mountain ridgetops, the clear-cutting of forests, and for massive trenching and tunneling across valleys for a pipeline that is not even needed and that serves only to enrich energy companies while hurting ratepayers. “Governor McAuliffe made construction of the MVP pipeline a top priority of his term and his administration testified vigorously in support of the pipeline during the Water Board’s final two-day hearing this week. “Our hope is that the Water Board, next week, will ignore the Governor’s similarly misguided support of a second gas pipeline – the Atlantic Coast Pipeline favored by controversial political donor Dominion Energy – when the Board votes on that pipeline next Tuesday.”
  • Appalachian Voices, Tom Cormons, Executive Director: “We are thoroughly disappointed by the board’s decision. Thousands voiced their opposition to this pipeline based on evidence that it cannot be built without violating the federal Clean Water Act and the board’s obligation under Virginia law. DEQ created a rushed, haphazard process, limited the scope of the board’s review, and abdicated the state’s authority to the Corps of Engineers for oversight of pipeline construction at almost 400 water crossings. “We applaud the efforts of several members who expressed concern that the draft permit would not provide reasonable assurance, as required by law, that water quality would be protected, and particularly we applaud members Nissa Dean and Roberta Kellam who cast the two dissenting votes. “The board should have rejected the permit today because they lacked enough information to make a reasoned decision. Instead, it approved an utterly deficient permit. “The record demonstrates this project would ultimately violate the law. We are considering all options and expect the outcome will be determined in the courts. If the company breaks ground on the project, citizens along the entire route are prepared to watchdog every action, along every mile, every day of construction and afterwards, and compel agencies to act when violations inevitably occur. “Next week, the board will be presented with an equally deficient permit for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and should exercise its full authority to reject the permit.”

Reaction and press release from the Sierra Club is here.

Initial press coverage of the decision is in the Washington Post and Richmond Times-Dispatch, and on WHSV3.