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Virginia considers revoking water permit for Mountain Valley gas pipeline

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Virginia considers revoking water permit for Mountain Valley gas pipeline

The Virginia State Water Control Board might cancel a state-issued Clean Water Act Section-401 water quality certification for the 2-Bcf/d Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC natural gas transportation project after the state sued the developer for water-related environmental violations.

The board voted to hold a hearing to "consider the revocation" of the permit at a meeting in Richmond, Va., on Dec. 14. According to a news release from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the board will decide on the process and schedule in the next few weeks. Losing the permit could hamper construction on the pipeline in the state.

The move came after Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality announced a lawsuit against Mountain Valley for what the state said were as many as 300 environmental violations in several counties along the pipeline route. The violations of federal and state law involved erosion, sediment and stormwater standards, and many of them occurred after significant rainfall, the state said.

A Mountain Valley spokesperson said the developer has tried to design a route with the least impact to communities and the environment and has worked closely with state and federal agencies. "We will continue to work with the VA DEQ and the [State Water Control Board] to address any additional concerns," Natalie Cox said Dec. 14.

In a project update released before the Virginia board announced its decision to look at the water permit, Mountain Valley said it expects the pipeline to be operational by the end of 2019. The pipeline project is a joint venture of EQM Midstream Partners LP, NextEra Energy Inc., Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream Inc. and RGC Midstream LLC.

The Virginia board's action is one of many permitting and legal challenges for the pipeline project. In an October decision that was explained in November, a U.S. appeals court vacated a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water permit for the West Virginia portion of the project route. The court agreed with environmental groups such as the Sierra Club that the developer's construction methods violated a condition of the Clean Water Act nationwide permit 12. The condition required the pipeline developer to achieve water crossings in under 72 hours to minimize environmental impacts. (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit docket 18-1173)

Mountain Valley also had to stop construction on small portions of the 300-mile pipeline after a July court order removed federal permissions related to the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia and West Virginia.