W.Va. DEP Changes State-Imposed Regs for Stream Crossing Permits
By Brittany Patterson
WV Public Broadcasting
West Virginia environmental regulators have changed a series of state-imposed conditions to federal permits issued for stream crossings for natural gas pipelines and other federal projects approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In a letter sent to federal regulators last week, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) officials submitted more than 50 changes to the state-imposed conditions including removal of a 72-hour time restriction for construction of interstate natural gas pipelines under waterways in certain cases.
To cross under streams, rivers and wetlands, major pipeline projects need a permit from the Army Corps under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
The permits detail how much sediment or debris can end up in waterways during construction of interstate pipelines, but also dams, levees and major highway projects.
Under federal law, states can add special conditions to those permits. WVDEP began the process of updating its 401 Water Quality Certification in August 2018.
The WVDEP previously required interstate pipelines must be built under major rivers within 72 hours.
This caused problems for the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline. Last year, a federal court threw out the project’s Section 404 permit after environmental groups argued pipeline developers’ own planning documents showed they couldn’t meet that 72-hour waterway crossing deadline. Currently, the project is awaiting new Section 404 permits and can’t do construction under waterways.
The new modifications clarify that stream crossing methods that are done when streams are flowing must be completed within 72 hours, but that stream crossings where waterways are damned, also called the “dry ditch” method, are exempt from the 72-hour requirement.
Construction and access bridges and crossings on Section 10 rivers are also exempt from the 72-hour requirements, the letter states.
Pipeline activist group, Appalachians Against Pipelines, launched a demonstration due in-part to the changes to the permitting scheme.
Last Thursday, 22-year-old Holden Dometrius locked himself to welding equipment at a Mountain Valley Pipeline construction site near Lindside, which caused work to stop, the group said in a news release.
A representative for the group said the action and signs Dometrius held, which read “To hell with your permits” and “No borders, no prisons, no pipelines on stolen land” were in reference to disapproval with all permits issued to the project, including WVDEP’s recent changes to the Section 401 Water Quality Certification.
The changes are subject to review by both the Army Corps and U.S. EPA.