A coalition of clean water advocates has filed a suit contending the United States Army Corps of Engineers improperly issued a crucial permit for the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline. The suit was filed February 13 by Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of a coalition made up of the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, Indian Creek Watershed Association, West Virginia Rivers Coalition and Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
Under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the Army Corps is charged with issuing a permit for the pipelines’ stream crossings that allows the project’s builders to trench through the bottom of those streams, including the Greenbrier, Elk, and Gauley Rivers, and fill the crossings with dirt during construction of the pipeline. Before the Army Corps can issue this permit, the state in which construction will occur must certify the pipeline’s construction will not degrade the state’s water quality. The permit issued to the Mountain Valley Pipeline by the Army Corps is commonly known as a “nationwide” permit, which takes a one-size-fits-all approach that can only be used when a state has done the necessary water quality analysis. Since West Virginia waived its right to do that analysis, the Army Corps cannot legally issue the section 404 permit for construction of the pipeline in West Virginia.
If successful, the suit will require the Army Corps or the state of West Virginia to do another water quality impact review before the pipeline can be built through that state.