By Nadia Ramlagan for WVNS
A federal court in Virginia has struck down a proposed permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, siding with environmental groups who said the project would threaten endangered wildlife and habitat.
The pipeline would run more than 300 miles, transporting natural gas through eleven counties in West Virginia and neighboring states. The decision is the second rejection by a federal court over permitting for the pipeline’s construction.
Cindy Rank, chair of the extractive industries committee for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, one of several groups behind a lawsuit against the pipeline, said it would cross many of the state’s headwater streams, both large and small.
“And the impact on both of those is going to be a tremendous amount of sedimentation,” Rank explained. “Both from the construction sites on either side of the stream if you’re going to drill under; and the actual in-stream degradation as you’re blocking up one side and digging up another side to put that pipeline down.”
High levels of sediment can disrupt ecosystems, harm fish, and increase algae blooms. The interstate pipeline would be owned and operated by Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, a joint venture between several energy companies, and regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. On its website, the company said it has provided funding to preserve land and remains dedicated to ongoing environmental preservation efforts.
Rank argued a decision last December by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to issue a water quality certification failed to consider the pipeline’s potentially harmful impacts to wildlife and the environment.
“Because we believe that certification is based on fallacies,” Rank asserted. “DEP did not consider everything they needed to consider, before determining that this would not violate water-quality standards.”
She believes it would be a mistake to tie West Virginia into more fossil fuels, at a time when the nation is focused on creating a sustainable renewable-energy infrastructure.
“But now is the time to make those changes,” Rank contended. “To solar, to wind, to other options that don’t have as big a carbon footprint. And in fact these permits are supposed to take that kind of future impact into account.”
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the pipeline has been required to pay millions of dollars in fines for more than 350 water-quality related violations in Virginia and West Virginia.