The Pittsburgh office of the United States Army Corps of Engineers has now suspended the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s authority to cross streams and wetlands.
In Previous Episodes (if you have been diligently reading, highlighting, and indexing your Highlands Voicesfor the last few months, skip this part)
In order to cross streams and wetlands, the Mountain Valley Pipeline must get approval from the United States Army Corps of Engineers. In seeking this approval, it has two choices. The first choice is to do individual applications for each crossing. The second is to seek to approve all the crossings at one time by using the Corps’ Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12).
Nationwide Permits are issued for large classes of activities. They are appropriate for projects with minimal individual and cumulative environmental impacts. It is a one size fits all approach for lots of nearly identical activities that have small impacts. Nationwide Permit 12 is the one that covers pipelines.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline asked that it be allowed to proceed under NWP 12 and was initially approved. Then, largely due to citizen advocacy, it became clear that the pipeline did not qualify to proceed under that Nationwide Permit.
Now what has happened
At the request of several groups, including the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the Pittsburgh office of the Corps of Engineers has suspended the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s authority to cross streams and wetlands within its jurisdiction.
Just in case keeping up with pipeline developments was not confusing enough, stream crossings are reviewed by two different branches of the Corps of Engineers. ThePittsburgh District had jurisdiction over 59 stream crossings and 62 wetland crossings. The Huntington District has the rest. Approval of stream and wetland crossings within the jurisdiction of the Huntington District had already been suspended. Now all stream and wetland crossings are suspended.
In another development, several groups, including the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to suspend all construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. FERC has overall authority to say whether the pipeline gets built or not. Its approval depends upon the pipeline getting all the appropriate approvals from other agencies: the Corps of Engineers to cross streams and wetlands, the United States Forest Service to cross National Forests, etc.
In their letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the groups point out that approval of all construction depends upon approval of each aspect of construction, including stream and wetlands crossing. If stream and wetland crossings are no longer approved, then no construction should be allowed.