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Energy & Environment

Mountain Valley Pipeline Secures Permits To Cross Water Bodies, Met With Lawsuit

The Trump administration wants to overhaul a major environmental law — the National Environmental Policy Act — to help speed approval of infrastructure projects, including oil and gas pipelines.

Days after receiving three long-sought federal permits to cross streams and wetlands in West Virginia and Virginia, opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have once again taken legal action to try and stop the project from moving ahead.

On Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reissued permits to allow the 303-mile natural gas pipeline to cross nearly 1,000 waterways in the two states. The original approvals were tossed by a federal appeals court in 2018.

The court at that time sided with environmental groups who argued the agency overlooked a requirement by West Virginia environmental regulators that pipeline stream crossings must be completed within 72 hours to limit environmental harm. MVP’s own documentation noted some river crossings could take four to six weeks. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has since changed its policy and removed the 72-hour construction limit.

In a lawsuit filed Monday morning, a coalition of environmental and conservation groups is asking the same court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, to review the permits.

In a Friday letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, attorney Derek Teaney with Appalchian Mountain Advocates, writing on behalf of eight environmental groups, asked the agency to stay the Army Corps permits while the judicial review is underway.

Pipeline developers are also awaiting a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, on a Sept. 22 request to restart construction following a stay by the agency last year. The decision could come at any time.

Mountain Valley Pipeline did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Forest Service released its draft proposal to allow the pipeline to cross the Jefferson National Forest. The original approval was also invalidated by the Fourth Circuit in the summer of 2018.

The draft document addresses flaws in erosion and sediment control measures that were cited by the court. The public has until Nov. 9 to comment on the proposal.

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