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Wednesday, November 1, 2017


State Surrenders to Fossil Fuel Industry Instead of Protecting Health of West Virginians
Doug Jackson, 202.495.3045 or
Derek Teaney, 304.646.1182 or

CHARLESTON, WV -- Today, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) waived its opportunity to review the water quality impacts of the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline. Under section 401 of the Clean Water Act, states must certify that proposed pipelines will not violate state water quality standards before construction can begin. DEP has the responsibility to determine whether or not to issue that certification for West Virginia, but announced today they are abdicating that responsibility.

DEP previously certified the MVP, but in response to a lawsuit brought by Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups, a federal court set aside that certification and allowed DEP to start over. That coalition is now exploring legal strategies in response to today’s news.

In response, Sierra Club West Virginia Chapter Gas Committee Chair Justin Raines issued this statement:

"Instead of protecting West Virginia’s water, DEP has sold us down the river. They had one job to do and they failed to do it, leaving our water in the hands of the federal government and out-of-state corporate polluters who are more interested in making money than protecting West Virginians. If we can’t trust our own state to protect our water, health and tourism, who can we trust to do it? Governor Justice and his DEP have let us all down by abandoning the responsibilities we trusted them with."

Derek Teaney, Senior Attorney at Appalachian Mountain Advocates, issued this statement:

“This is an outrageous and unprecedented dereliction of duty by DEP. After assuring a federal court that it was committed to reconsidering whether the MVP would degrade the hundreds of streams that it would impact, DEP has thrown up its hands and admitted that it is not up to the task of protecting West Virginia’s environment. This action suggests that DEP does not believe in the laws--including the antidegradation policy--that it is charged with enforcing. It also makes you wonder whether DEP intends to give the Atlantic Coast Pipeline--the other ill-conceived pipeline project it is currently reviewing--the same free pass it has just given to MVP.”

Judy Azulay, Indian Creek Watershed Association President, issued this statement:

“It’s incomprehensible that DEP is not using the authority granted to it by the West Virginia legislature to protect our water. Instead of issuing enforceable conditions for the 401 permit, DEP allows MVP to pen its own free pass to pollute. Instead of overseeing this unprecedented construction project, DEP turns a blind eye to the evidence documented in annotated maps and reports submitted by Indian Creek and other organizations and West Virginians identifying specific areas where the MVP would cause unacceptable degradation of our water. How can our Governor and his appointees allow DEP to abandon its mission and turn its back on the people and our natural resources?”

Angie Rosser, Executive Director, West Virginia Rivers Coalition said:

“DEP is a taxpayer-supported agency whose job is to protect public health and the environment. But when it came to one of the biggest projects DEP needed to review to protect water quality, the agency quit on the citizens of the state. We often hear from our political leaders that we don’t need federal agencies to regulate, that the state can handle it. But waiving their authority to do so is no way to handle it. It appears that political favor to industry has won the day over the agency’s responsibility to do everything in its power to protect the public’s right to clean water.”

Anne Havemann, General Counsel, Chesapeake Climate Action Network said:

"Shame on WVDEP Director Austin Caperton and Governor Jim Justice. After directing agency staff to spend over a year’s worth of time, effort, and taxpayer money to look at the impacts to waterways from the massive Mountain Valley Pipeline, they’ve passed the buck to the federal government knowing full well that the pipeline won’t get the thorough review such a massive project deserves. West Virginia’s decision to waive its right to protect hundreds of streams and rivers from MVP is a complete abdication of its duty and a irreparable breach of the public’s trust.

Peter Anderson, Virginia Program Manager, Appalachian Voices said:

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission clearly stated in its Mountain Valley Pipeline Order that construction may not commence without a water quality certification from each state and that states may impose additional conditions to protect water quality. By waiving its opportunity to do that, the WVDEP has utterly failed to fulfill its mission to preserve, protect, and enhance the state’s watersheds for the benefit and safety of all its citizens. West Virginians deserve better, and they certainly deserve clean water every bit as much as citizens of other states.”


September 16, 2016

Community and Conservation Groups Condemn FERC’s Review of Proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline

Joe Lovett, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, 304-520-2324,
Laurie Ardison, Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights, 304-646-8339,
Kirk Bowers, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, 434-296-8673,
Kelly Trout, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 240-396-2022,
Lara Mack, Appalachian Voices, 434-293-6373,
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Federal regulators today released a draft environmental review for the proposed fracked-gas Mountain Valley Pipeline that public interest advocates say fails to adequately assess the public need for the project and the widespread threats to private property, public lands, local communities, water quality and the climate.
The controversial $3.2 billion pipeline, proposed by EQT and NextEra, would cut 301 miles through West Virginia and Virginia --- crossing public lands and more than 1,000 waterways and wetlands --- and require the construction of three large compressor stations. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is one of six major pipelines proposed for the same region of Virginia and West Virginia where experts warn the gas industry is overbuilding pipeline infrastructure. (See below for a bulleted list of major impacts as defined by FERC.)
In preparing its draft Environmental Impact Statement, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relied heavily on gas company data to assess the public need for the project, the groups say. A report released earlier this month concludes there is enough existing gas supply in Virginia and the Carolinas to meet demand through 2030. The groups also fault the agency for dismissing clean energy alternatives.
In response to requests from numerous elected officials and organizations, FERC has extended the usual 45-day period for public comment to 90 days. Comments are due December 22.
While legal and environmental experts are continuing to review the nearly 2,600-page document, they have identified major gaps in FERC’s analysis, including:
  • The core issue of whether the massive project is needed to meet electricity demand, and whether other alternatives including energy efficiency, solar and wind would be more environmentally responsible sources;
  • A complete analysis of the cumulative, life-cycle climate pollution that would result from the pipeline;
  • Any accounting of other environmental and human health damage from the increased gas fracking in West Virginia that would supply the pipeline; and
  • Thorough analysis of damage to water quality and natural resources throughout the pipeline route.
“It’s shameful that FERC did not prepare a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement,” said Joe Lovett, Executive Director of Appalachian Mountain Advocates. “It would allow a private pipeline company to take private property for private profit. Apparently FERC decided it didn’t have to do the hard work necessary to determine whether the MVP is necessary. Such a lack of diligence is remarkable because FERC has the extraordinary power to grant MVP the right to take property that has, in many cases, been in the same families for generations.”
“The resource reports MVP has already submitted to FERC are the alleged backbone upon which the DEIS is created. These reports are, however, uncatalogued collections of partial surveys, studies and desktop engineering notions which are rife with omissions, and inadequate and incorrect data", said Laurie Ardison, Co-Chair of Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR). “The DEIS is fatally flawed for a variety of process and substance matters, not the least of which is MVP's insufficient, unsubstantiated foundational material.”
"FERC once again has its blinders on to the full climate consequences of fracked gas," said Anne Havemann, General Counsel at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. "FERC’s limited review ignores the full lifecycle of pollution the pipeline will trigger by acting as if gas comes from nowhere. FERC also provides no clear explanation of exactly how it arrived at its limited estimate of emissions. If FERC did a full accounting of the climate harm of this fracked-gas project and clean energy alternatives, it would have no choice but to reject it."
“Recent studies have shown that our region has the necessary energy to meet demand through 2030 already. We know that clean, renewable energy is available and affordable, and by this time, it will be the only choice to preserve our environment and climate. Additional fossil fuel projects like the Mountain Valley project, are not needed to keep the lights on, homes and businesses heated, and industrial facilities in production -- despite the claims by MVP developers,” said Kirk Bowers, Pipelines Campaign Manager with the Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club.
“This would be the first fracked-gas pipeline of this size to cross the Alleghany and Blue Ridge mountains. Running a massive gas project through the steep, rugged terrain laced with dozens of rivers and headwater streams is a perfect storm for major damage to our water resources,”  said Lara Mack, Virginia Campaign Field Organizer with Appalachian Voices. ”FERC also fails to meaningfully address the safety issues and other concerns so earnestly voiced by hundreds of homeowners and landowners along the route.”
“The Mountain Valley Pipeline could result in taking people's  property in West Virginia solely to benefit out-of-state companies,” said Jim Kotcon, West Virginia Sierra Club Chapter Chair.  "To make matters worse, it will affect all West Virginians because it will result in higher gas prices for local consumers.  Low cost energy is one of the few advantages that West Virginia has in attracting new businesses, and this pipeline will make our energy costs higher while lowering costs for competitors in other states.  That pipeline is bad business for West Virginia businesses.”

Highlights of major impacts of the MVP route as identified by FERC in the DEIS:
  • About 67% of the MVP route would cross areas susceptible to landslides.
  • The pipeline would cross about 51 miles of karst terrain.
  • Construction would disturb about 4,189 acres of soils that are classified as potential for severe water erosion.
  • Construction would disturb about 2,353 acres of prime farmland or farmland of statewide importance.
  • The pipeline would result in 986 waterbody crossings; 33 are classified as fisheries of special concern.
  • The MVP would cross about 245 miles of forest; in Virginia, it would impact about 938 acres of contiguous interior forest during construction classified as “high” to “outstanding” quality.
  • In West Virginia, the pipeline would result in permanent impacts on about 865 acres of core forest areas which are significant wildlife habitat.
  • The 50-foot wide operational easement would represent a permanent impact on forests.
  • FERC identified 22 federally listed threatened, endangered, candidate, or special concern species potentially in vicinity of the MVP and the Equitrans projects, and 20 state-listed or special concern species.
  • MVP identified 117 residences within 50 feet of its proposed construction right-of-way.
  • Construction would require use of 365 roadways.
  • A still incomplete survey of the route shows the pipeline could potentially affect 166 new archaeological sites and 94 new architectural sites, in addition to crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway Historic District, North Fork Valley Rural Historic District, and Greater Newport Rural Historic District, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.