Federal judge says new plans for pipeline fails to address water pollution concerns

(UC) — A federal circuit court judge ruled last week that West Virginia regulators have not fully explained how permissions for the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction have been altered to minimize future water pollution.

After the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) discovered 100 water-quality and sediment violations, environmental organizations challenged the permit for the 303-mile proposed pipeline, Reuters reported.

Last Tuesday, during oral arguments before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a panel of judges questioned WVDEP's attorneys about how revised building guidelines meet the pollution concerns of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups.

"There's no question you have new conditions, what you don't have is an explanation as to why those conditions are specifically tailored to address past problems," Judge James Wynn said.

The court questioned whether returning the matter to the environmental agency for a second go would be a "simple remedy," but doing so would probably further prolong the already lengthy process.

Remand, according to WVDEP attorney Lindsay See, would not be required. Based on the evidence in front of the court, it's simple to draw connections, according to See.

A joint venture between Equitrans Midstream Corp., NextEra Energy Inc., and others called the Mountain Valley Pipeline has been met with vehement opposition from landowners and environmentalists.

The 4th Circuit has previously overturned and remanded important federal agency clearances that were required for the pipeline to cross a national forest, as well as construction approvals that were contested because they affected endangered species.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, struck an agreement with President Joe Biden earlier this year to send legal objections to the project to the D.C. Circuit. That agreement was removed from a funding measure because it received insufficient support.

The case is Sierra Club v. West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 22-1008.


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