Families Claim Pipeline Project Cause Mud Slides

A farm in the fertile Shenandoah Valley. (Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

ROANOKE (CN) – Families living near the construction of a controversial gas pipeline project in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley claim in court that massive mudslides that followed a four-day downpour prove the clearing of land and trees for the work is endangering their properties and livelihoods.

In a federal complaint filed in Roanoke, Virginia, Wendell and Mary Flora, along with members of the Hurt family, claim Mountain Valley Pipeline, a Pennsylvania-based company created to construct a natural gas line across three states, violated the Clean Water Act by not properly preparing recently cleared construction areas for intense rain and erosion.

The complaint says as much as eight inches of mud ended up on the Flora’s land, just down the hill from MVP’s construction path, following torrential rains in late May. The plaintiffs claim the mud was a result of poorly constructed barriers which often saw water and mud flowing around and over them, instead of being directed safely away.

“No matter what controls were extant at the worksite, they were inadequate to capture the soil washing from MVP’s easement onto Mr. Flora’s property and were unable to prevent MVP’s trespass,” wrote Isak Howell, a Roanoke-based lawyer who is representing the plaintiffs in the suit. Howell goes on to say emails from the state’s environmental agency, Virginia Department of environmental Quality, also show concern with the company’s methods in controlling erosion and mudslides

This is not the first case to challenge the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline over erosion concerns. During the May session of the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit , Sierra Club lawyer Benjamin Luckett argued state regulators had failed to keep erosion in mind when they issued a permit to build the pipeline.

“It’s a state’s duty to determine the damage from erosion,” Luckett told the three judge panel, noting they hadn’t conducted enough testing to determine what was required to battle mudslides. “The state hasn’t followed procedure without that analysis [and without this data] the state can’t conclude the project is safe.”

A decision on that case has not yet been reached. The Flora family is asking for an immediate halt to the pipeline saying the erosion and its fall out count as trespass on their land.

Attempts to reach Mountain Valley Pipeline for comment on this suit were not returned.

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