Mountain Valley to seek new water quality certifications from Virginia

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

Amid an ongoing legal battle, Mountain Valley Pipeline announced Tuesday it plans to seek new stream-crossing permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and new water quality certifications from Virginia and West Virginia. 

The developers outlined their change of course, which they described as “the most efficient and effective path to project completion,” in a series of filings Tuesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 

While the beleaguered pipeline has seen many of its federal permits restored in recent months, stream-crossing permits have remained a sticking point. 

Mountain Valley had previously received its necessary Nationwide Permit 12, a blanket authorization from the U.S. Army Corps that covered all of the pipeline’s water crossings, but lost its approvals in 2018. While the authorizations were later restored, a legal challenge led the Richmond-based U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to suspend any further stream-crossing construction until the broader case is resolved.

In its filings with FERC, Mountain Valley said it “firmly believes” that the challenges “are unfounded” but nevertheless will seek new, individual certifications from West Virginia and Virginia in order to complete the project.

At the same time, the developers submitted a letter to Virginia Department of Environmental Quality David Paylor notifying him that they intend to seek water quality certification from the state to cross Virginia streams and wetlands. 

DEQ, however, in December notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it would not grant a water quality certification under Nationwide Permit 12 for “any natural gas transmission pipeline greater than 36 inches inside diameter.” 

What effect that decision would have on Mountain Valley, which is 42 inches in diameter, is unclear. Extending state water quality certifications for the MVP and the now-canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline were hugely contentious votes by the Virginia State Water Control Board in 2017. In 2019, the board weighed revoking Mountain Valley’s certification in the face of a string of water quality violations but ultimately decided against the move.