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Conservationists Urge Higher Fines for Mountain Valley Pipeline Project

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Legal and regulatory challenges have increased the cost of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project by more than 50%. (Alexandr Anastasin/Adobe Stock)
Legal and regulatory challenges have increased the cost of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project by more than 50%. (Alexandr Anastasin/Adobe Stock)
February 18, 2021

CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- The multibillion-dollar Mountain Valley Pipeline Project is being fined more than $300,000 for excessive erosion and sediment deposits during construction, but conservationists say more is needed to prevent a culture of noncompliance.

It's the second time Mountain Valley has been fined by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Jim Kotcon, associate professor of plant pathology at West Virginia University and a member of the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, is concerned the fines won't be enough to stop them from polluting the Mountain State's waters.

"While $303,000 sounds like a lot, this is mere pennies for a company like Mountain Valley Pipeline," Kotcon contended. "And it is clear that this is not enough of a penalty to deter future violations."

Two-thirds of the project is located in West Virginia, but Virginia has fined the company more than three times as often.

Kotcon argued because of the environmental impacts, the pipeline is not a good investment for the company and its investors, nor for the state.

Mountain Valley Pipeline representatives have said the best path forward for environmental protection would be to complete construction.

But Kotcon noted the pipeline has faced delays, and doesn't expect it to be done until 2022 at the earliest.

"The major portion of the pipeline left to complete in West Virginia is actually the parts that are the most vulnerable," Kotcon explained. "They still have to do a number of crossings of streams and wetlands."

He added when the pipeline is built straight up and down on very steep hills, soil washes into water bodies, leading to fish kills, increased water-treatment costs and other damage.

Kotcon urged concerned West Virginians to contact the Department of Environmental Protection and voice their opinion.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, West Virginia Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species and Wildlife, Environment, and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Lily Bohlke, Public News Service - WV