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West Virginia environmental agency approves Mountain Valley Pipeline permit

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MVP steep slopes

Workers prepare a section of land for the  Mountain Valley Pipeline in Franklin County earlier in 2021.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection approved a water quality permit for the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline on Thursday.

The natural gas pipeline’s planned 303-mile route cuts through West Virginia and Virginia, including Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties in Virginia.

In Virginia, a recent decision by the State Water Control Board to allow the infrastructure to cross streams and wetlands has resulted in an appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Unlike Virginia, West Virginia does not have a citizens board that decides whether or not to grant such permits.

Virginia’s State Water Control Board, whose members are appointed by the governor, voted 3-2 earlier this month to approve about 150 remaining stream and wetland crossings in the New River and Roanoke valleys.

The state’s Department of Environmental Quality had recommended a permit, saying that most of Mountain Valley’s nearly 400 violations of erosion and sediment control regulations did not cause lasting damage.

Approval by both states is needed before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can take final action on a federal permit for crossings that use an open-cut method, which entails digging a trench along the bottom of a temporarily dammed water body.

For other streams and wetlands, Mountain Valley plans to bore tunnels beneath them. Those crossings require a separate approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Environmental groups have asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review this month’s approval by the State Water Control Board.

Two other challenges are pending: One to a Forest Service permit that allows the natural gas pipeline to pass through 3.5 miles of the Jefferson National Forest; the other to a finding by the Fish and Wildlife Service that running a massive pipe across steep slopes and through pristine waters would not jeopardize endangered species of fish and bats.

Oral arguments in those cases were made in late October. Decisions by the Fourth Circuit are expected in the coming days or weeks.

Appalachian Voices Virginia Policy Director Peter Anderson said in a news release the West Virginia permitting decision was “contrary to robust evidence that the MVP cannot be built without violating state water quality standards.”

Roanoke Times staff writer Laurence Hammack contributed to this report.

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