Widespread erosion throughout development of the Mountain Valley Pipeline was attributable to “extraordinary” rainfall and different uncontrollable forces of nature, attorneys for the corporate mentioned Friday in response to a lawsuit filed by environmental regulators.
In its first detailed reply to a authorized enforcement motion introduced by the Virginia Division of Environmental High quality and the State Water Management Board, the corporate requested a decide to dismiss a few of the claims.
However the 28-page submitting in Henrico County Circuit Courtroom additionally indicated that Mountain Valley is serious about a “potential negotiated decision” of a lawsuit that accuses it of violating environmental rules greater than 300 occasions.
It was unclear to what diploma a settlement has been mentioned.
A Mountain Valley spokeswoman didn’t instantly reply to questions. A spokeswoman for state Lawyer Normal Mark Herring, who filed the lawsuit in December, mentioned the workplace will reply the corporate’s submitting in court docket.
Lengthy earlier than development of the huge buried pipeline started final spring, opponents argued that digging trenches for the 42-inch diameter metal pipe throughout rugged mountain terrain and thru pristine steams was asking for environmental hassle.
Inspections by DEQ have discovered that development crews failed to forestall muddy water from flowing off pipeline development easements, typically leaving dangerous sediment in close by streams and properties.
However erosion and sediment management measures, which had been authorized by the state earlier than work started, couldn’t have anticipated a yr by which greater than 60 inches of rain fell alongside some components of the pipeline’s 303-mile route, Mountain Valley acknowledged in court docket papers.
“The alleged sediment discharges had been attributable to extraordinary, high-intensity storm occasions and flooding past MVP’s management,” its attorneys wrote.
Mountain Valley additionally raised numerous different defenses, together with the argument that the court-ordered compliance requested by the state just isn’t wanted as a result of the environmental injury has already been repaired.
The attorneys additionally contended that development of pure gasoline pipelines is wholly regulated by the federal Pure Fuel Act, and that state legal guidelines raised in Herring’s lawsuit should not relevant.
Though the lawsuit doesn’t search an actual financial quantity, Herring mentioned in an earlier assertion that he’ll search “the utmost allowable civil penalties and a court docket order to drive MVP to adjust to environmental legal guidelines and rules.”
Penalties within the case could possibly be as excessive as $32,500 per day for every violation.
The authorized motion is predicated on dozens of inspections performed by DEQ officers and staff of MBP, a non-public firm employed by the state to help in monitoring development of the most important pure gasoline pipeline ever proposed for Southwest Virginia.
The primary main signal of hassle got here Might 21, when state inspectors had been referred to as to Franklin County after heavy rains triggered a landslide on a steep development zone, masking close by Cahas Mountain Street with almost a foot of mud.
About 100 yards south of the pipeline proper of means, inspectors discovered a stream with a layer of sediment 1 to 11 inches deep, extending for greater than 1,000 toes. Within the coming months, related discoveries had been made alongside different streams within the Roanoke and New River valleys.
For months, pipeline opponents have been calling on state and federal officers to order a cease to development.
The Federal Power Regulatory Fee, the lead company overseeing development, issued a stop-work order final summer time after a federal appeals court docket struck down a allow from the U.S. Forest Service that allowed the pipeline to cross via the Jefferson Nationwide Forest.
However development on most components of the pipeline was allowed to renew a month later. Since then, a second court docket ruling has put a cease to all work on stream crossings till new permits are issued by the U.S. Military Corps of Engineers.
In a current letter to FERC, Giles County resident Steven Hodges requested why there had been no point out of the state’s lawsuit in filings with the regulatory company.
“FERC is accountable to make sure environment-protecting compliance throughout development,” wrote Hodges, whose property is being crossed by the pipeline.
“This compliance oversight has repeatedly been criticized as insufficient by quite a few landowners, scientists, environmental teams and even unbiased observers. … The working precept certainly appears to be: If the corporate is out of compliance, loosen the ‘situations’ of the certificates order by rubber-stamping all variances to accommodate Mountain Valley’s inadequacies and failures.”