Judge temporarily halts MVP from crossing Greenbrier River at Pence Springs

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Summers and Monroe County Circuit Judge Robert Irons issued a temporary stay last Tuesday to halt work being done on a Summers County property at a point where the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) will enter the Greenbrier River in Pence Springs, according to an article in The Register-Herald.

The motion was brought before Irons by Greenbrier River Watershed Association, Indian Creek Watershed Association, property owner Ashby Berkley, and Ty and Susan Bouldin. Among concerns over due process, the petitioners have argued that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit for the crossing is not in compliance with the Natural Streams Preservation Act.

Attorneys for both sides presented their arguments before Irons, beginning with Attorney Kevin Thompson, arguing for the petitioners, who stated that the stay was necessary because if not granted, the petitioners’ appeal would be worthless since the pipeline construction would be quickly completed and their concerns would not receive their due process.

Attorney Robert McLusky, who represented pipeline interests, argued that a delay in construction would push back the Greenbrier River crossing until next summer. He was supported by an attorney with DEP, who asked the judge to allow the construction to proceed.

Irons countered McLusky’s argument that a stay would automatically lead to a lengthy delay in the construction process, stating, “I have heard that before on cases involving the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” referring to his role in a Monroe case earlier this year involving two tree-sit protestors blocking construction on the pipeline on Peters Mountain.

“It was represented that there was a hard deadline,” but which was ultimately extended for a couple months. “It seems to me that these deadlines aren’t really set in stone on this particular project,” Irons said. He granted the stay in the case and scheduled the next hearing for 10 a.m. on Oct. 23 at the Summers County Courthouse.

While thankful for the stay, Pence Springs landowner Berkley said he has little hope of stopping construction across his land. The proposed path of the pipeline will effectively split his property in two. Berkley, who has been expecting construction to begin for the past two years, was alerted by his neighbors that MVP workers were cutting down trees on the riverside property on Monday. He said he was offered $23,000 for the property which used to contain campsites.

“Who the hell is going to come here and camp on top of a 42-inch pipeline,” the landowner said. “They’ve rendered my property absolutely useless.”

In addition to his personal concerns, Berkley is concerned about the potential environmental impact. The pipeline workers will have to cut trees that line the bank of the river to cross, where the soil is loam and could quickly erode. Berkley said that the DEP’s participation in the process had been nothing but “pathetic.” He said he could not even clear a creek bed on the property because of the Greenbrier River is included in the Natural Stream Preservation Act. But, Berkley said the DEP’s rules don’t seem to apply to the pipeline project.