Delegate pushes for an explanation from DEQ on Mountain Valley Pipeline

A portion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction site in Franklin County in 2018 (Roberta Kellam)

Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery, has asked the Department of Environmental Quality to issue a stop work order on the Mountain Valley Pipeline until a lawsuit filed by the state over hundreds of construction violations is resolved.

“The destruction of our clean water in Virginia caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline has gone on for long enough,” Hurst tweeted.

In a letter to DEQ Director David Paylor, Hurst said Paylor has the authority to pause construction of the 303-mile pipeline under approved 2018 legislation that gives the department power to halt work when projects have caused “substantial adverse impacts to water quality or are likely to cause imminent and substantial adverse impacts to water quality.”

The question of who or what body has authority to revoke permits or otherwise stop pipeline projects has come up several times as activists have tried to stymie both the MVP and Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Most recently, the issue came to a head when the State Water Control Board decided it couldn’t revoke a water quality permit for the MVP because it doesn’t have the authority to do so.

Hurst wrote that work on the pipeline should stop until allegations in a lawsuit DEQ and the Attorney General’s office filed against the pipeline are addressed in court.

In the lawsuit, DEQ and Attorney General Mark Herring cited more than 300 violations in five months along the pipeline route. The list primarily included erosion and stormwater control problems.

“Unfortunately, the landowners in my district and many others cannot continue to guess what it will take for a reasonable stop work order for the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” Hurst wrote. “Clearly, there is evidence of violations and a lack of of seriousness on the part of Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC as shown in the lawsuit your agency filed in Henrico County Circuit Court this past December.”

Hurst also asked that Paylor provide any “correspondence, memoranda, documentation or issued guidance” that lays out what is considered a substantial adverse impact on water quality.

He copied Gov. Ralph Northam, Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler and several other lawmakers on the letter.

DEQ did not respond to a request for comment.