Regulatory panel weighs motion to consider re-evaluating, revoking pipeline permits

The board voted the motion down


RICHMOND, Va. – A regulatory panel has declined calls from environmental groups, landowners and others to reconsider important water-quality permits for two natural gas pipelines.

The State Water Control Board met Tuesday in Richmond to consider public comments it solicited earlier this year about the permits granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines.

Staff from the Department of Environmental Quality gave an overview of the thousands of comments received, and the board also heard from attendees of the packed hearing, which was raucous and contentious at times.

Critics have argued the Corps' review process is overly broad and have pushed for additional protections. DEQ has defended the process, and both pipeline companies say the review has been rigorous.

The board weighed a motion to consider re-evaluating or revoking the permits but voted it down.

The Sierra Club released the following statement in response: 

Today, the State Water Control Board allowed the controversial fracked-gas Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines to proceed with current inadequate permits. The board took no action on water permitting, allowing the previous certification of the Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit 12 blanket permit to stand, allowing continued work on the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines.

Nationwide Permit 12 requires far fewer protections for Virginia waterways than state water quality standards could under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Under the Clean Water Act, Virginia has the authority to require compliance with state water quality standards to study and mitigate the impacts of these two massive, dirty and dangerous pipeline projects to ensure Virginia’s water is protected.

“It’s absurd to think that a one-size-fits-all nationwide permit could adequately protect the unique waterways and communities of Virginia,” said Kate Addleson, Director of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, “The bare minimum action taken by the board today pales in comparison to what a truly thorough review could accomplish. Given the scale of these pipelines and the terrain they propose to cross, Gov. Northam should immediately act to fully protect our water and communities,” she added.

Virginians, scientists, legislators and the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice have urged the Governor and the Department of Environmental Quality to require a thorough, stream-by-stream analysis of these pipelines’ impacts on water and to not allow work to continue until such analysis is completed.

“Each stream crossing has its own particular characteristics and potential for pollution and flooding,” Bill Limpert, a resident and landowner of Bath County whose land and water is threatened by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, said at a press conference held before the State Water Control Board meeting. “Each proposed crossing needs to be evaluated on site.”

In the past two weeks, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has halted work on both pipeline projects after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated permits for both pipelines, citing inadequate analysis of the pipelines’ impacts.