Federal Court Invalidates Key Water Permit in West Virginia, Casting Doubt on Future for Mountain Valley Pipeline


CHARLESTON, WV – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has thrown out a crucial permit that the fracked-gas Mountain Valley Pipeline needs to proceed with construction activities in West Virginia streams and wetlands. Without the West Virginia 401 certification, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can't allow construction in streams anywhere along the entire 304-mile project.

The suit was filed by lawyers from Appalachian Mountain Advocates, on behalf of the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and Indian Creek Watershed Association. The groups argued that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) had not done enough to protect the state's waterways from sedimentation as there were recurrences of muddy runoff from construction along the pipeline’s path. WVDEP has previously fined Mountain Valley Pipeline more than $550,000 for polluting West Virginia’s waters with sediment and failing to maintain its erosion control devices.

This decision protects West Virginia’s river and streams from additional harm; the project has already been cited for dozens of water quality standards violations in West Virginia. It is also a significant setback for the troubled pipeline project, which is already years behind schedule, barely half complete to full restoration, and billions over budget. In addition to this state permit, the pipeline is also missing permits to pass through the Jefferson National Forest and authorizations from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mountain Valley Pipeline still has some of the most difficult terrain to cross, including 429 stream and wetland crossings.

"This decision highlights important shortcomings in the WV DEP's 401 Certification review process with regard to protecting small but valuable headwater streams of West Virginia" said Cindy Rank of the WV Highlands Conservancy. "A more complete and accurate evaluation would no doubt lead to the final demise of the shortsighted pipeline."

“We’re in a climate crisis and need to stop digging the hole deeper,” said Anne Havemann, General Counsel with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “It’s time to move away from polluting fracked-gas infrastructure projects such as MVP that harm our rivers and streams, rip through private property, and contribute to climate change and move towards clean, renewable energy.”

“We applaud the court’s decision to protect our water from this disastrous project,” Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Campaign Director Patrick Grenter said. “After countless violations of environmental safeguards and clean water protections, we know that MVP can’t be trusted to comply with the most basic standards of reasonable conduct. This project is already more than three years behind schedule, and billions over budget. With continuous legal setbacks, it has never been more clear that investors should stop throwing money at this doomed project and walk away.”

“We appreciate the common sense reflected in the court’s decision,” said Angie Rosser, executive director of West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “MVP has already gone too far in damaging West Virginia’s water resources, particularly in some of our most valuable mountain headwater systems. WVDEP clearly cannot make a good conscience argument that MVP will not further violate water quality standards.”

“Mountain Valley Pipeline has no one but itself to blame for the Fourth Circuit’s decision,” said Howdy Henritz, president of Indian Creek Watershed Association. “MVP's untenable route, inadequate plans and history of violations finally caught up with them. The WVDEP's lack of resources allowed MVP to evade environmental oversight and violate environmental regulations.”

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.