Dereliction of Duty: WVDEP Abandons Water Quality Review of Fracked Gas Pipeline

State Surrenders to Fossil Fuel Industry Instead of Protecting Health of West Virginians

CHARLESTON, WV — Today, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) waived its opportunity to review the water quality impacts of the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline. Under section 401 of the Clean Water Act, states must certify that proposed pipelines will not violate state water quality standards before construction can begin. DEP has the responsibility to determine whether or not to issue that certification for West Virginia, but announced today they are abdicating that responsibility.

DEP previously certified the MVP, but in response to a lawsuit brought by Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups, a federal court set aside that certification and allowed DEP to start over. That coalition is now exploring legal strategies in response to today’s news.

In response, Sierra Club West Virginia Chapter Gas Committee Chair Justin Raines issued this statement:

“Instead of protecting West Virginia’s water, DEP has sold us down the river. They had one job to do and they failed to do it, leaving our water in the hands of the federal government and out-of-state corporate polluters who are more interested in making money than protecting West Virginians. If we can’t trust our own state to protect our water, health and tourism, who can we trust to do it? Governor Justice and his DEP have let us all down by abandoning the responsibilities we trusted them with.”

Derek Teaney, Senior Attorney at Appalachian Mountain Advocates, issued this statement:

“This is an outrageous and unprecedented dereliction of duty by DEP. After assuring a federal court that it was committed to reconsidering whether the MVP would degrade the hundreds of streams that it would impact, DEP has thrown up its hands and admitted that it is not up to the task of protecting West Virginia’s environment. This action suggests that DEP does not believe in the laws–including the antidegradation policy–that it is charged with enforcing. It also makes you wonder whether DEP intends to give the Atlantic Coast Pipeline–the other ill-conceived pipeline project it is currently reviewing–the same free pass it has just given to MVP.”

Judy Azulay, Indian Creek Watershed Association President, issued this statement:

“It’s incomprehensible that DEP is not using the authority granted to it by the West Virginia legislature to protect our water. Instead of issuing enforceable conditions for the 401 permit, DEP allows MVP to pen its own free pass to pollute. Instead of overseeing this unprecedented construction project, DEP turns a blind eye to the evidence documented in annotated maps and reports submitted by Indian Creek and other organizations and West Virginians identifying specific areas where the MVP would cause unacceptable degradation of our water. How can our Governor and his appointees allow DEP to abandon its mission and turn its back on the people and our natural resources?”

Angie Rosser, Executive Director, West Virginia Rivers Coalition said:

“DEP is a taxpayer-supported agency whose job is to protect public health and the environment. But when it came to one of the biggest projects DEP needed to review to protect water quality, the agency quit on the citizens of the state. We often hear from our political leaders that we don’t need federal agencies to regulate, that the state can handle it. But waiving their authority to do so is no way to handle it. It appears that political favor to industry has won the day over the agency’s responsibility to do everything in its power to protect the public’s right to clean water.”

Anne Havemann, General Counsel, Chesapeake Climate Action Network said:

“Shame on WVDEP Director Austin Caperton and Governor Jim Justice. After directing agency staff to spend over a year’s worth of time, effort, and taxpayer money to look at the impacts to waterways from the massive Mountain Valley Pipeline, they’ve passed the buck to the federal government knowing full well that the pipeline won’t get the thorough review such a massive project deserves. West Virginia’s decision to waive its right to protect hundreds of streams and rivers from MVP is a complete abdication of its duty and a irreparable breach of the public’s trust.

Peter Anderson, Virginia Program Manager, Appalachian Voices said:

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission clearly stated in its Mountain Valley Pipeline Order that construction may not commence without a water quality certification from each state and that states may impose additional conditions to protect water quality. By waiving its opportunity to do that, the WVDEP has utterly failed to fulfill its mission to preserve, protect, and enhance the state’s watersheds for the benefit and safety of all its citizens. West Virginians deserve better, and they certainly deserve clean water every bit as much as citizens of other states.”

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Contact:
Doug Jackson, 202.495.3045 or doug.jackson@sierraclub.org
Derek Teaney, 304.646.1182 or dteaney@appalmad.org

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

 

About Appalachian Mountain Advocates

Appalachian Mountain Advocates is a non-profit law and policy center dedicated to fighting for clean water and a clean energy future. Appalmad has a long history of winning precedent-setting court cases and negotiating costly settlements. The organization has secured hundreds of millions of dollars towards conserving natural areas and treating polluted water. We have worked for more than 15 years to ensure that the fossil fuel industry cannot continue to dump its costs of doing business onto the public. For more information, visit www.appalmad.org.

 

About Indian Creek Watershed Association

Indian Creek Watershed Association is a non-profit community based organization whose mission is to preserve and protect Monroe County’s abundant, pure water. For more information, visit www.IndianCreekWatershedAssociation.org.

 

About the West Virginia Rivers Coalition

West Virginia Rivers Coalition is a statewide non-profit organization promoting the conservation and restoration of West Virginia’s exceptional rivers and streams. Since 1989, it has served as the statewide voice for clean, healthy waters for all to use and enjoy. For more information, visit www.wvrivers.org.

 

About the Chesapeake Climate Action Network

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) is the first grassroots, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to fighting global warming in the Chesapeake region. Our mission is to build a diverse movement powerful enough to put our region on the path to climate stability. We envision an equitable energy future where truly clean sources of power — efficiency, solar and wind — sustain every aspect of our lives, and dirty fossil fuels are phased out. For more information, visitwww.chesapeakeclimate.org.

 

About Appalachian Voices

Appalachian Voices is a leading force in America’s energy transformation, working at the nexus of the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy for the the 21st Century.  As a grassroots and advocacy organization rooted deeply in Appalachia, we defend the region from mountaintop removal coal mining, fracked-gas pipeline building, and other harmful practices while promoting clean energy sources that generate local jobs and community wealth, and sustain Appalachia’s incomparable natural heritage.  For more information, visit www.appvoices.org.