Virginia regulatory board denies Mountain Valley Pipeline compressor station permit

December 3, 2021| Sarah Vogelsong|Virginia Mercury

In a 6-1 vote, the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board on Friday voted to deny an air permit for a proposed compressor station in Pittsylvania that would be a key part of the Southgate extension of the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline. 

“I have concluded that when we equitably consider — not just consider, but equitably consider — the potential negative environmental consequences of this permit on these communities, granting this permit would not promote environmental justice,” Air Board member Hope Cupit said Friday, in the second day of hearings on the Lambert Compressor Station being held in Chatham. “If the Virginia Environmental Justice Act is to mean anything, and if we as a commonwealth are going to promote environmental justice, then the time has come to reject proposals like this one.”
The board based its denial on a determination that the permit did not meet “fair treatment” requirements under the Virginia Environmental Justice Act passed in 2020 and that the site was not suitable for a compressor station given state law and the 2020 decision in a lawsuit over the siting of a compressor station for the canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The decision came as a surprise in Virginia, where denials of air and water permits are rare. “I don’t think any of us were prepared to hope for a decision like this,” said Taylor Lilley, an attorney with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation who has spearheaded the group’s opposition to the Lambert air permit, after the decision. “It was a rare time that we got to see the board be so thorough and apply all the environmental provisions that have come down last year at once.” 

In a statement, Mountain Valley said it was “disappointed” in the board’s decision. “The proposed facility would have been one of the most stringently controlled natural gas compressor stations in the United States,” Shawn Day, a pipeline spokesperson, wrote in an email. “The board’s decision is not supported by the factual evidence and the rigorous examination presented by MVP Southgate, an independent consultant and DEQ staff which demonstrated that the project’s advanced design would have no adverse impacts on public health.”

While the Virginia air board decision is the latest blow to Mountain Valley’s plans, however, it is not the only challenge hampering the Southgate extension. North Carolina has also twice denied the pipeline a necessary water permit, citing “unnecessary and avoidable impacts to surface waters and riparian buffers.”

This story has been edited for length. Full story HERE

State panel approves stream-crossing permit for Mountain Valley Pipeline

December 14, 2021| Laurence Hammack |Roanoke Times

RICHMOND — The Mountain Valley Pipeline made it across troubled waters Tuesday. In a 3-2 vote, the State Water Control Board granted a permit for the natural gas pipeline to cross about 150 streams and wetlands in Southwest Virginia, surmounting one of the beleaguered project’s most protracted struggles.

Although a similar permit from West Virginia and federal approval is still required, Mountain Valley expressed confidence that it will complete construction “in a way that protects natural resources and meets public demand for reliable, affordable and lower-carbon energy.”

About 94% of the pipeline is finished, spokeswoman Natalie Cox wrote in an email Tuesday, and “the remaining waterbody crossings can be completed successfully and without adverse impacts to sensitive resources.”

However, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has already cited the joint venture of five energy companies building the pipeline with nearly 400 violations of erosion and sediment control regulations. Opponents argue that the true number is much higher — and will only increase if stream crossings are allowed to resume after earlier permits were struck down by the courts.

In recommending approval for a company that it has cited repeatedly since work began in 2018, DEQ said most of Mountain Valley’s failures to adequately control muddy runoff from construction sites did not ultimately lead to sediment reaching water bodies.

Board members Paula Jasinski and Ryan Seiger voted against the permit. Support came from Lou Ann Jessee-Wallace, Tim Hayes and Jack Lanier. Two members of the citizens panel, which is appointed by the governor, were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

The crossings approved by the water board, referred to as the open-cut method, entail temporarily damming a stream or river and digging a trench for the buried pipeline along the bottom. In some cases, pumps and flumes are used to divert the current long enough to install the 42-inch diameter pipe.

After listening to more than two hours of DEQ presentations, the board did not discuss the permit before taking its vote.

This story has been edited for length. Full story HERE
A Mountain Valley Pipeline construction worker looks over the route in October from Honeysuckle Road near the top of Poor Mountain in Roanoke County.  Heather Rousseau

Never Give Up

A guest blog by Donna Pitt, Coordinator of Preserve Giles County, a POWHR Coalition Group

I know many of you were not able to be at the State Water Control Board hearing on Mountain Valley Pipeline’s Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification in Radford back in September, and I freely admit that at the time I thought it was all fruitless; all of us there yet again trying to get through to a Board appointed by the politicians who continually let us down in the face of corporate profits. My cynicism was front and center on that day. So rather than reiterate even more perfectly logical and valid reasons why the Board should not grant MVP a 401 water crossing permit, I let loose with a scolding. 

I asked them, politely, to consider who they, the Citizen Water Control Board, represented – not the Dept. of Environmental Quality, nor the Governor, but us, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I reminded them that by statute they had the authority to promulgate, approve and deny water regulation permits and to sanction and initiate legal action in the case of water regulation violations.

I reminded them that we – citizens, landowners, environmental scientists and lawyers – provided myriad evidence why the project was flawed to the point of environmental criminal negligence. I reminded them that we knew when the Board raised questions and concerns about the soundness of the project, the DEQ Administration drowned those concerns with regulatory roadblocks and “summarization” of public comments.  

I pointed out that in spite of documented, sustained evidence of the project’s inability to control or mitigate erosion and sedimentation of our streams and wetlands, DEQ’s response has been that as long as MVP “cleans it up” in three days’ time, that’s all that can be expected. Those of us on the ground, on our own land, in our own communities, see the damage those three days do to our water, our springs, our special streams and the wildlife they sustain. No amount of “mitigation bank credits” can restore the purity of those waters and wetlands.

I ended my scolding with the request that our Citizen Board refuse to allow DEQ Administration to drown or explain away their questions, concerns and reservations. I reiterated that the Board did not work for DEQ – that DEQ worked for the Board and they should not be allowed to do the Board’s thinking. Nor should the DEQ make the decision to approve or deny this new permit to blast and drill through our water systems a foregone conclusion, as they have tried to do. Reject this permit and let this disastrous project die the death it deserves. 

After Friday’s 6-1 decision by the VA Air Pollution Control Board to deny MVP a compression station permit in Pittsylvania County, I am ready to recant my cynicism and shout “Good for You!” and “Thank Goodness some citizens do think for themselves and have the guts to vote for what they believe is right!” The fact that this decision was in the face of arguments from State Agencies and private consultants that no harm would occur makes it even more powerful. And it gives me a bit of hope that the State Water Control Board will take some courage from this decision and do the same to the water permit. One can always hope, can’t we? What’s our mantra? Never Give UP!  

Donna Pitt, Preserve Giles County

The Mountain Valley Pipeline construction in Monroe County in 2018 will directly harm communities along its route and affect all West Virginians by damaging our mountains and water resources. By Jenny Harnish
Systemic, environmental injustices can be mitigated

December 10, 2021| Angie Rosser; guest columnist |Register Herald

Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Charleston, issued a public comment on the Environmental Protection Agency notice titled “Meetings: White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.” The comment was written on Dec. 2 and posted on Dec. 3.

Whereas the WHEJAC (White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council ) provides advice and recommendations about “issues of environmental justice and pollution reduction, energy, climate change mitigation and resiliency, environmental health, and racial inequality,”1 WV Rivers would like to raise concerns regarding regulatory, community, and economic issues related to environmental justice in West Virginia. The issues we wish to highlight in our state are environmental sacrifice zones, inequitable energy resources, unsafe drinking water, climate disasters, and natural gas pipelines as symptoms of systemic environmental injustices that can be mitigated through the adoption of science-based and thoughtful policies.

● Environmental sacrifice zones: Approximately 96,000 people live in an area of industrial cancer risk around Charleston, West Virginia, where the highest estimated excess lifetime cancer risk from industrial sources is 36 times the EPA’s acceptable risk due to emissions from nearby facilities. These environmental sacrifice zones disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color. Notably, the toxic hot spot with the highest risk in West Virginia (1 in 280) has a high concentration of Black people and hosts the historically Black college, West Virginia State University.2
In communities near mountaintop removal coal mining, residents living in proximity to surface mines face higher rates of death from cancer, respiratory diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.3
West Virginia has the highest risk of toxic exposure to selenium leaching into waterways from coal mining and industrial pollution in the country.4
Drinking and waste water infrastructure in low-income communities once centered around and now bankrupt coal companies, also face disproportionate neglect leading to multi-year boil water notices and water service disruptions.5, 6
The air and water pollution from coal produce direct health and ecosystem impacts, and remnants of the 20th century “company town” concept further leads to shortened life expectancies and outmigration in these communities.7
With the second-lowest median household income among all 50 states, many West Virginian communities qualify as disadvantaged federally. Furthermore, a 150 percent increase in average monthly residential electric bills for American Electric Power customers over the past 15 years has made energy less accessible to residents.8
Whereas, the Justice40 initiative committed to directing “40 percent of the overall benefits” from federal environmental and energy investments to disadvantaged communities;9 it is vital that the WHEJAC provide recommendations to address pollutive harm imposed on communities located in West Virginian sacrifice zones in the “chemical valley.”

● Climate disasters: In West Virginia, climate change often expresses itself through water, specifically floods. West Virginia has one of the highest flood risks in the country, according to a recent report10 by First Street Foundation with nearly one in four properties in the state found to be at high risk of flooding. Moreover, greater than one in 10 West Virginia properties are at almost certain risk of flooding over the next 30 years. Dunbar, notably located between two toxic hot spots discussed previously in “environmental sacrifice zones,” has an extreme risk of flooding; this is the greatest risk level in the state with approximately 80 percent of residential properties at high risk.11
Historically, floods have devastated parts of the state. In 2016 and 1985, floods destroyed properties and businesses and killed 23 and 63 people, respectively.12
Climate adaptation measures must center environmental justice through sufficient investments in communities vulnerable to climate disasters, like flooding.

● Natural gas pipelines: The completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) will directly harm communities along its route and affect all West Virginians by damaging our mountains and water resources. The issuance of a permit for the completion of the MVP would be contrary to the public interest and devastate the surrounding environment. Some concerning impacts of this pipeline are harm to endangered species habitats, degradation to water quality, and contribution to the effects of climate change that disproportionately impact underserved and minority populations. Specifically “low-income communities, elderly residents and Indigenous sites” are at greatest risk along the proposed 303 mile pipeline. 13
This project will permanently alter the soils and hydrology of approximately 10 acres of wetlands which are vital for habitat, flooding reduction and improving water quality. As a result, it creates flooding hazards with increased scouring of the unconsolidated material in the stream bed potentially exposing the pipe during high flows. In addition to numerous private wells and springs along the route, the MVP has the potential to impact drinking water supplies of 8 public water utilities. Already, the development has degraded water quality with only a small fraction of the waterbody crossings completed. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection cited the MVP approximately 300 times for violating water quality standards. Ultimately the pipeline will contribute significant amounts of methane to the atmosphere accelerating the impacts of climate change.14
Environmental injustice in West Virginia can be viewed as cyclical. Direct harm imposed by pollutive and extractive industries through air pollution or water contamination in sacrifice zones creates long-term health and ecological consequences, often for vulnerable populations. Emissions produced by these industries further contribute to global warming and exacerbate more frequent and intense climate disasters. As the WHEJAC considers draft recommendations to the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the White House Interagency Council on Environmental Justice from the Justice40 Work Group, Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool Work Group, and the Scorecard Work Group, we urge members of the council to consider West Virginian communities in the discussion.

Original story HERE
Dear Members and Friends,

We write in hopes that you are all happy and healthy. We missed seeing you this year as we made the unfortunate decision to cancel our member picnic and watershed celebration event at Lost World. However, the Greenbrier River Watershed Association continues working to keep the river and its tributaries clean and healthy for you.

We would like to express our appreciation to Mary Surbaugh who served as our Coordinator for the majority of this year. We would also like to extend a warm welcome to Louanne Fatora who has taken over the Coordinator position! Additionally, we want to share with you some accomplishments we've achieved over the past year.

Watershed Updates

We hosted our annual make-it-shine cleanup at the Anthony boat launch to beautify the area in preparation for the upgraded boat launch parking lot in partnership with the US Forest Service.

All year long, we’ve been working on designing interpretive signs at various points along the river that will be installed in the spring.

You’ll see a new kiosk and signs popping up at the Anthony boat launch, the new Ronceverte public access on River Road, the Fort Spring boat launch, and the future Marlinton Wetland Walk adjacent to the Greenbrier River Trail.

In partnership with West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Mountain Resource Conservation and Development and the City of Lewisburg, we distributed50 rain barrels to the Greenbrier Valley.

We have more projects in the works including:

  • Coordination with Lewisburg Water to educate the community about drinking water issues.
  • Partnering with USF&WS Fish Hatchery on a Green Floater Mussel program to boost the populations in the river.

Please renew your membership via mail or at

Thank you for your continued support,

John J. Walkup, III
National Green Infrastructure Certification Training
January 11- February 10, 2022
Tuesday & Thursday mornings
8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Online via ZOOM
Application & Class Fees $185
Testing & Certification Fees $150

About Green Infrastructure
Stormwater management practices that protect, restore, or mimic the natural water cycle are  referred to as green infrastructure (GI). It is a collection of engineered systems that utilize natural or “green” approaches to manage stormwater locally. Stormwater is stored temporarily at or near where it falls to be used by trees and vegetation, stored and used later for irrigation, or    allowed to soak into the ground through layers of soil, which remove pollutants from the stormwater through natural processes.

About the program
The National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP) provides the base-level skill set needed for entry-level workers to properly construct, inspect and maintain green stormwater infrastructure (GI). Designed to meet international best practice standards, NGICP is a tool that can be used to meet a wide range of needs, including professional development for existing GI professionals and as part of a larger workforce development to provide candidates with the technical skills necessary to enter the green workforce and earn a livable wage.

** Financial assistance may be available for qualifying individuals.
Contact Dennis Burns **
Register at:

Urge Senator Manchin to Take the Lead on Climate Action
Let Senator Manchin know that West Virginians want him to bring home a strong budget bill that invests in our state. The Build Back Better plan would send as much as $18 billion of badly-needed investments into West Virginia in the next decade – fixing our roads, removing lead pipes and getting us ready to compete in the next century. The clean energy provisions in the Build Back Better plan are essential to West Virginia as our nation and world move towards clean energy. Investments like the Clean Electricity Performance Program would provide West Virginians with good jobs, lower electricity costs and better health.

Send Senator Manchin an email message HERE
FERC Monthly Virtual Open Meeting
December 16, 2021
Virtual Open Meeting (Free Webcast available best viewed using Microsoft Edge)
Commission meeting held in Commission Meeting Room (Room 2C) at FERC Headquarters, 888 First St. N.E., Washington, D.C. 20426
free live webcast is available for this meeting from 10:00 am - 11:00 am. All webcasts are archived for 3 months. Full info HERE 

Make your time count by volunteering with your favorite non-profit to do any number of things from helping with river cleanups, to monitoring rivers and creeks, to making phone calls or licking envelopes. You make a difference.

Follow these pages 
WV Rivers ~ WV Rivers is the statewide voice for water-based recreation and clean, drinkable, swim-able, and fishable rivers and streams-from the headwaters to wherever water flows in West Virginia. 
New River Conservancy ~ Protecting the water, woodlands and wildlife of the New River Watershed. River Clean Ups
Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance ~ Protecting the heritage, resources and economy of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge region.
WV Environmental Council ~ Facilitate communication and cooperation among citizens in promoting environmental protection in West Virginia, to assist in organizing grass roots groups, to facilitate interaction among established environmental organizations, and to correspond with all appropriate local, state, and federal agencies involved in the management of West Virginia's environment. 
Wild Virginia ~ Along with our partners, alliances, and citizens like you, we press on in the fight against fracked gas pipelines in our region. The Mountain Valley Pipeline poses a great risk to our forests and surrounding communities. We are also working to improve habitat connectivity for wildlife throughout Virginia and to ensure that all of our waterways are fully protected in accordance with the law.
Stop the Money Pipeline ~ If we can stop the flow of money, we can stop the flow of oil. In early 2020, thirty-two organizations came together to form the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition. We stand on the shoulders of years of movement work pressuring financial institutions to act on climate.
If you appreciate the work we are doing, please consider a donation today.