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Groups sue over W.Va. water permit for Mountain Valley pipeline

Opponents of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC natural gas transportation project asked a federal court to overturn the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's water quality permit for the project.

The Sierra Club, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Appalachian Voices and Chesapeake Climate Action Network filed on June 9 a petition for appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Filed against both the department and its head, Secretary Austin Caperton, the petition asked the court to review and invalidate the agency's water quality certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The state announced the permit on March 28.

The 300-mile, 42-inch-diameter pipeline would run through West Virginia and Virginia. The project would include three compressor stations and other facilities. It would be capable of delivering 2 Bcf/d. The project is a joint venture of EQT Midstream Partners LP, NextEra Energy Inc., RGC Resources Inc., WGL Holdings Inc.'s WGL Midstream Inc. and Consolidated Edison Inc.'s Con Edison Gas Pipeline and Storage LLC.

An EQT spokesperson did not return requests for comment by the time of publication. A spokesperson for WGL deferred to EQT.

In a Sierra Club press release, the group claimed the project would break up one of the largest remaining wilderness areas in the U.S. "This pipeline threatens to do irreparable harm to Appalachia's treasured streams and forested hillsides, and it is critical that the state thoroughly examine these impacts rather than rubber-stamping a project that is bad for our communities and our environment," said Sierra Club representative Deb Self.

According to the water permit, the project would involve 631 stream crossings in West Virginia, with 37 of the crossings listed as permanent. (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit docket 17-1714)

FERC is expected to publish a final environmental impact statement for the project on June 23. (FERC docket CP16-10)