Recent Pipeline Activity in the Court and on the Ground
Over the past six years, a citizens group that operates under the name of West Virginia Rivers Coalition has partnered with Trout Unlimited to train volunteers to monitor shale gas and pipeline construction. Calling themselves citizen scientists, these volunteers have augmented the understaffed ranks of governmental inspectors and regulators by monitoring conditions along pipeline routes in the two Virginias.
This past summer, coalition volunteers held what they called a Violation Blitz, or Vioblitz, for short along the Mountain Valley Pipeline across Virginia and West Virginia. During their Vioblitz, the volunteers documented approximately 100 potential violations. After the potential violations were reviewed by the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, the coalition forwarded them to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The two agencies then sent their own inspectors to follow-up. As a result, the West Virginia DEP issued two notices of violation to the contractors for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The Virginia DEQ issued no notices as a result of its follow-up inspections, noting that the violations had been repaired promptly.
On Monday, a group of state attorneys general filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of Dominion Energy’s request to overturn a ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that shut down construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Fourth Circuit had ruled that the U.S. Forest Service lacked authority to grant rights of way through forestland beneath federal trails, specifically the Appalachian Trail.
The state attorneys general argue in their brief that the Fourth Circuit’s ruling makes the Appalachian Trail a “near-impenetrable barrier to energy development.” The group also argues that a nationwide application of the court ruling could “potentially disrupt the national power grid” due to the infrastructure development impact of more than 11,000 miles of federal trails becoming similar barriers.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear Dominion’s appeal of the Fourth Circuit’s decision which Dominion believes is a sign that the Court will rule favorably on its request to resume construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
We would like to thank West Virginia News and the Greenbrier River Watershed Association for information used in this story. This is Mickey Frank Thomas for Allegheny Mountain Radio.