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State Board Reverses Stance on Key Pipeline Permit

Ben Paviour
VPM News
Protestors at Friday's state water board meeting.

Environmentalists expressed surprise and frustration today after the state water board decided against beginning the process of revoking a key permit for the roughly 300 mile Mountain Valley Pipeline.

At their December meeting, the board voted 4-3 to consider revoking the permit.

On Friday, they unanimously voted against taking any action after a roughly four hour closed door meeting. James Lofton made the initial motion in December, but reversed his vote.

Lofton said he was “deeply concerned” about runoff and pollution from the pipeline. But he maintained the board lacked authority to act.

“This hearing was about whether we have the legal authority to revoke the certification,” he said after the meeting. “And we don’t.”

The Mountain Valley Pipeline is the shorter of two major projects under construction in Virginia, alongside the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Both projects have been marked by numerous legal challenges and fierce opposition by activists.

Environmentalists say the former project is wreaking havoc on waterways and needs to be stopped. Some, like Appalachian Voices Virginia Program manager Peter Anderson, were caught off-guard by the decision. Anderson called the vote “a worst case scenario.”

“What’s the point of having a permit that’s unenforceable?” Anderson said. “You enforce the permit by saying, ‘Okay, you can’t comply with the conditions of this permit? We’re going to rescind that permit.’”

Pipeline workers like Curtis Eaves, who travelled from Blacksburg, cheered the verdict.

“We just got a job to do,” Eaves said. “We’ve got families to feed. Some of us got kids to support. It’s just a life.”

In a statement, Mountain Valley Pipeline spokeswoman Natalie Cox said the company was pleased with the verdict and said they would work with state and federal agencies to ensure the company complied with codes.

Attorney General Mark Herring is suing the project, alleging that has violated environmental regulations more than 300 times.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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