DEQ: MVP broke the law, has inadequate erosion controls

DEQ announces notice sent to pipeline company, could involve fines

RICHMOND, Va. – The company building a natural gas pipeline through southwest Virginia now faces penalties for breaking erosion control laws.

The Virginia Department of Environment Equality announced Tuesday that it has served Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC with a notice explaining how it violated Virginia law. The letter said MVP failed to install proper erosion controls.

The company could face up to $32,500 per day and up to an additional $100,000 for the violations, and the DEQ has the authority to deliver an injunction, meaning it could ask MVP to stop construction at certain sites. 

In a statement, a DEQ spokeswoman said of the notice of violation:

“The issuance of an NOV is the first step toward generating enforcement action by DEQ.”

In the letter, the DEQ asks MVP officials to respond with 10 days to set up a meeting with DEQ staff.

“The Notice of Violation process is standard procedure for DEQ to formally and publicly announce violations and determine a path forward for resolution,” DEQ Director David Paylor said. “We are concerned about these alleged violations and we are holding MVP accountable.”

An MVP spokeswoman said in a statement:

"The issues identified in the July 10 [notice of violation] issued by the VDEQ are [erosion and sediment controls] incidents that have been restored or are currently being enhanced; and as part of the process, the VDEQ is reviewing [erosion and sediment controls] at given points along the route and providing approval to restart full pipeline activities in those areas. To-date, several areas along the route have resumed full pipeline construction activities. The MVP project team continues to take its environmental stewardship responsibilities very seriously and appreciates the guidance and oversight by the VDEQ."

MVP voluntarily stopped all work in Virginia June 29, pending DEQ inspections.

In the last week, the DEQ has approved five of the work sites it has inspected, allowing MVP to continue work at those locations. DEQ staff denied approval after its inspection of the Cahas Mountain Road work site.

A DEQ spokeswoman said the department is continuing inspections and will release segments for work to resume once MVP meets all requirements.

Here’s a portion of the letter:

“DEQ has reason to believe that Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (MVP) may be in violation of the Virginia Stormwater Management Act and Regulations, the Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Law and Regulations, the Virginia Water Protection Permit Program and Regulations, and Section 401 Water Quality Certification No. 17-001 at certain locations where land disturbing activity is occurring along MVP's linear construction project. These land disturbing activities are located in Craig, Franklin, Giles, Montgomery, Pittsylvania and/or Roanoke County, Virginia and include multiple access locations and work in various stages of construction including tree removal, land clearing, and grading.”

The notice cites specific violations in Franklin County on Cahas Mountain Road, Grassy Hill Road and Callaway Road, and in Montgomery County at Mount Tabor and on Catawba Road.

Landowners and other pipeline opponents documented sediment runoff into roads, grassy areas and streams after heavy rains in May.

One of the areas with the most runoff was on Cahas Mountain Road in Franklin County. In May, sediment broke through barriers amid heavy rain, and neighbors said about a foot of mud blocked the road.

The letter states that erosion controls were “in need of repair, which resulted in a release of sediment laden stormwater off the construction right of way.” It also said that the mud, “ranged in depth up to eleven inches.”

DEQ staff investigated the conditions cited in the letter throughout May and June.