Court challenge demands new review of MVP Water Permit

Bill Wolf, Co-Chair, Inc.

This week Delegate Sam Rasoul joined landowners, local businesses and grassroots groups to challenge the 401-water quality permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The permit was granted by the State Water Control Board (SWCB) despite objections and concerns from affected landowners, lawyers, scientists, politicians and concerned citizens who all say that there can be no reasonable assurance that water quality can be protected. Four days later, the SWCB approved the permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), but with a stipulation. The permit for the ACP cannot go into effect until outstanding information about the project’s impacts to water quality is completed and presented for review to the SWCB.

A petition for reconsideration of the MVP was presented to the SWCB during their meeting regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) on December 11, but the Board chose not to take action. The appeal filed today seeks to require action that the Board should have taken before considering whether there is reasonable assurance that MVP can protect water quality. If the Board now wants to impose the same conditions on the MVP that it imposed on the ACP, it must reopen the permit itself.

Rasoul, the 11th District Virginia Delegate and a strong supporter of water protections in Southwest Virginia and across the commonwealth, said: “If you care about our drinking water, this is the fight of our generation in Southwest Virginia. The largest pipeline to ever cut through Virginia mountains would hurt our water. We must do everything in our power to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline.”

Bill Wolf, the co-chair of Preserve Craig, said: “Governor McAuliffe announced his complete support for MVP years ago, without considering the devastation it would cause Virginia and Virginians. He even directed the DEQ to expedite any required approvals. Now Preserve Craig and other citizens of Virginia have to take the State to Federal Court because DEQ did not do its job. The review was incomplete, the 401 permit seriously flawed and the decision pre-determined. The Water Control Board even approved the MVP 401 permit without the restrictions placed on the ACP permit, even though the managing partner of MVP has pled guilty to intentionally polluting other state waters and is a convicted environmental criminal. Governor-elect Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring should immediately require that the 401 permit be re-opened while a thorough investigation is completed. Our water quality should be the most cherished resource that Virginia officials protect for us.”

Georgia Haverty owns Doe Creek Farm in Giles County. “I was stunned at the Board’s cavalier disregard of landowners’ concerns. The Board condemned the water that supplies my home and my farm business. They did it without analyzing site-specific information and against the recommendation of scientists who agree that the MVP will pollute our streams and groundwater,” said Ms. Haverty.

The SWCB issued the 401-certification based on information that was not yet available to the Board, such as erosion and sedimentation analysis. They also lacked a completed engineering report, relying on only a draft. Robert and Donna Jones live in Montgomery County, in the Slussers Chapel Conservation Area, which is area designated for its unique karst and cave geology. Robert Jones submitted detailed comments that were disregarded by the DEQ. “The credentialed karst experts concluded that the MVP cannot be built on the proposed route without causing harm to surface and groundwater resources. The State Water Control Board didn’t care. They certified the MVP requiring a plan that governs the developers’ behavior once they’ve caused the harm. I am reasonably assured that once construction starts, we will not have water in our home that we can drink,” said Robert Jones.

Roanoke leader Roberta Bonderant is confident that the legal action will be effective. “Following six months of DEQ policy mistakes, machinations and manipulations of the Clean Water Act, citizens of Southwest Virginia once again traveled great distances to Richmond to make sure their voices were heard. If they will not listen in a meeting room, they’ll have to listen in a court of law. DEQ leadership’s manipulation of process is evidenced in the staff summary document. The DEQ SWCB meetings were a final flourish to a process managed by state employees who were coerced by an administration and industry to ignore and suppress the foretelling of environmental havoc.”

The Petition for Review was filed on Monday in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals by Tammy Belinsky. Detailed legal briefs will be due in January. Joining the petition are Delegate Sam Rasoul, Preserve Craig, Doe Creek Farm, Georgia Haverty, Four Corners Farm, David and Betty Werner, Ian and Carolyn Reilly, Robert Jones, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and its chapters Preserve Bent Mountain, Preserve Floyd, Preserve Franklin and Pittsylvania PRIDE.

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