Environmental organizations outraged at WVDEP decision

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WDTV) -- Multiple organizations released statements together Wednesday against the decision by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection announcement to waive the individual 401 Certification of the federal permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline - a decision that the organizations say put the health of West Virginians at risk.

"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," stated Sierra Club West Virginia Chapter Gas Committee Chair Justin Raines.

“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," Derek Teaney, Senior Attorney at Appalachian Mountain Advocates stated.

“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?” stated Indian Creek Watershed Association President Judy Azulay.

“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,” stated Angie Rosser, Executive Director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

"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 an irreparable breach of the public’s trust, stated Anne Havemann, General Counsel of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

“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," stated Peter Anderson, Virginia Program Manager of Appalachian Voices.

The organization, Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights Coalition also released a statement, saying:

“Of all responses, a 'waiver' is the most disappointing. For West Virginia officials to have wasted the opportunity to protect West Virginia waters seems senseless -- or else, entirely calculated. It seems a signal that the agency understood that in accurately applying the Clean Water Act protections and so-called mitigation measures for water crossings through mountainous, karst and highly erodible terrain, that MVP’s application would fail.

“Real mitigation of a 42-inch line in this rugged mountain terrain and sensitive water crossings is impossible. It appears the powers that be would not allow that. And so the agency punted to the Corps of Engineers.

“We are disappointed of course, but utterly undeterred. In the face of this highly possible watershed disaster, and economic, environmental and social injustice it would bring, we are fueled to continue our challenge to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, as well as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline which poses the same grave threats to water quality.

“In light of West Virginia’s ill-advised choice today, we want to amplify our call to Virginia’s State Water Control Board to exercise every ounce of muscle it has in oversight of the permitting request for the Mountain alley and the Atlantic Coast pipelines and in the full application of the Clean Water Act. “

To learn more about the WVDEP's decision, you can visit the Related Link.