Construction Temporarily Stops on Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia
After a consultation with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Mountain Valley Pipeline has temporarily shut down construction in Southwest Virginia. Heavy rains in Virginia at the end of May led to a myriad of complaints from landowners around the construction site who were dealing with mud and sediment runoff into their properties.
The stoppage is an agreement between the two organizations, not a formal work-stop order, meaning there is no official timeline for the pause and work can continue once the erosion problem is under control. Construction in other parts of Virginia can continue. A similar stoppage as the result of runoff happened in Franklin County in May over a much smaller area. Work was resumed in a couple of days after the DEQ determined the problems had been resolved. These aren’t the only cases of erosion the pipeline has been dealing with. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the federal organization that oversees construction, has documented cases of problematic erosion all along the pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia.
Environmental groups are concerned, agreeing that the pause is a public relations ploy that will have no lasting consequences for the embattled and controversial pipeline. Nonetheless, DEQ spokesperson Greg Bilyeu acknowledged that public feedback, along with the results from their inspections, contributed to the temporary stay. Over 3,000 comments have been sent to the State Water Control Board and a citizen watch group, Mountain Valley Watch, reported to the DEQ over 20 possible violations by the pipeline construction. Beyond that, the project has stayed in the public consciousness due to frequent news coverage and protests.
The project is also dealing with a court-ordered stay over construction in West Virginia. The stay only impacts construction of the pipeline in stream crossings, meaning construction on land can continue while the court reviews a challenge to a specific permit. It does not impact construction in Virginia. Appalachian Mountain Advocates, the nonprofit law firm that filed the court challenge in West Virginia, sent a ten-page letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking for a stay on the entire project. It had received no response by Friday afternoon.
Despite the delays, a Mountain Valley Pipeline spokesperson says that they still plan to have the pipeline fully operational by the end of the year.
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