Mountain Valley Pipeline acknowledges criminal investigation into alleged environmental violations

Workers had cleared trees along the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Roanoke County. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury - July 26, 2018)

The company behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline says it’s the subject of a criminal investigation by the EPA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia into potential violations of the Clean Water Act and other federal statutes.

EQM Midstream Partners made the disclosure in its 2018 annual report to investors, which was filed Thursday, saying it is cooperating with a grand jury subpoena it received “but cannot predict whether any action will ultimately be brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office or what the outcome of such an action would be.”

According to the company:

On January 7, 2019, the MVP Joint Venture received a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia stating that it and the EPA are investigating potential criminal and/or civil violations of the Clean Water Act and other federal statutes as they relate to the construction of the MVP. The January 7, 2019, letter requests the MVP Joint Venture and its members, contractors, suppliers and other entities involved in the construction of the MVP to preserve documents related to the MVP generated from September 1, 2018 to the present.

In a telephone call on February 4, 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed that it has opened a criminal investigation. On February 11, 2019, the MVP Joint Venture received a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia requesting certain documents related to the MVP from August 1, 2018 to the present.

The MVP Joint Venture is complying with the letter and subpoena but cannot predict whether any action will ultimately be brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office or what the outcome of such an action would be.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District, Brian McGinn, declined to comment, citing Department of Justice policy.

The Roanoke Times reported last month that two Roanoke attorneys had asked for a federal investigation, passing along evidence gathered by environmental group Preserve Bent Mountain.

“We concluded there was enough evidence of violations of criminal law, particularly the Clean Water Act, that we could make a good-faith submission to the EPA,” Charlie Williams, an environmental law specialist at Gentry Locke, told the paper.

The Virginia State Water Control Board voted in December for a public hearing on revoking  a state water quality certification for the project. And Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has filed suit over several hundred alleged environmental violations stemming from construction.