Virginia water board certifies proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia's Water Control Board has issued a certification for a proposed natural gas pipeline that will run through six counties in the state.

A banner erected in southwestern Virginia marking the proposed route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline | Photo credit: WDBJ7

The board voted 5-2 Thursday to issue a water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. At a public comment session Wednesday, most of the dozens of speakers expressed concerns about digging trenches for a 42-inch buried steel pipe to run along steep mountain slopes.

This was the second day of hearings on the pipeline.

The board was charged with determining whether there is "reasonable assurance" that water along the pipeline's route would not be contaminated during construction.

Melanie Davenport, the Director of Water Permitting for the Department of Environmental Quality, acknowledged opponents' concerns about the federal approval process, and fears about safety, but said her agency's focus is much narrower.

"What we're bound to do is look at the statutes and regulations that we have authority to implement and utilize," said Davenport.

The pipeline would move pressurized natural gas through the Roanoke and New River valleys.

Appalachian Voices, a nonprofit advocate for Appalachian communities, said in a statement it was disappointed by the decision.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network used stronger language, condemning the decision:

“Terry McAuliffe has harmed farmers, consumers, drinking water, and the climate by pushing the Virginia Water Control Board to give final approval today of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The 301-mile pipeline for fracked gas constitutes a colossal misallocation of resources and will permanently harm the Governor’s economic and environmental legacies.

“Even as the on-the-ground evidence shows guaranteed harm to Virginia’s watersheds, and even as scientists sound the loudest possible warning bells on climate change, the Water Control Board gave the Governor what he asked for: a final build recommendation. This decision paves the way for the literal obliteration of mountain ridgetops, the clear-cutting of forests, and for massive trenching and tunneling across valleys for a pipeline that is not even needed and that serves only to enrich energy companies while hurting ratepayers.

“Governor McAuliffe made construction of the MVP pipeline a top priority of his term and his administration testified vigorously in support of the pipeline during the Water Board’s final two-day hearing this week.

“Our hope is that the Water Board, next week, will ignore the Governor’s similarly misguided support of a second gas pipeline – the Atlantic Coast Pipeline favored by controversial political donor Dominion Energy – when the Board votes on that pipeline next Tuesday.”

WHSV has reached out to Dominion Energy for a statement on the decision as well.