West Virginia has waived its opportunity to review the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to determine whether it will cause a violation of West Virginia’s water quality standards.
Under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act, federal agencies cannot authorize projects in a state unless that state certifies (called a 401 Certification) that the project will not violate state water quality standards. With the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, West Virginia could have refused the 401 Certification. If it did not want to refuse the 401 Certification outright, it could have conditioned its approval on the pipeline developers taking certain steps to protect water quality. Because of this power, the 401 Certification process is an excellent tool for imposing whatever conditions were necessary to protect West Virginia water.
Through this process, West Virginia could have prevented the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from finally approving he pipeline as well as the United States Army Corps of Engineers from approving the stream crossings, etc. that the pipeline will entail until we had assurance that West Virginia’s water would not be damaged.
Instead, West Virginia punted, waiving its opportunity to review the project.
West Virginia’s water quality standards specify the designated use of a stream or pollutant limits necessary to protect the designated use and policies to ensure that existing water uses will not be degraded by pollutant discharges.
If this story sounds familiar, it should. West Virginia’s approach to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is the exactly the same as it was to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The Mountain Valley project would run from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run from Harrison County to southeast North Carolina. West Virginia’s waiver of the opportunity to protect West Virginia waters from the Mountain Valley Pipeline was reported in the December, 2017, issue of The Highlands Voice. Now the same thing has happened with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.