And you can thank the Trump administration for that heavy hand:
Environmental advocates immediately condemned FERC’s decision. “The Mountain Valley main pipeline has violated water quality standards more than 300 times in Virginia and West Virginia. Yet, this same company plans to extend into North Carolina and bring its reckless construction practices to bear on the communities of these three counties for an entirely unneeded project,” said Ridge Graham, North Carolina field coordinator for Appalachian Voices.
The FERC certificate allows the developer, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, to begin using eminent domain to seize private property for construction along the proposed route, even as the pipeline’s viability remains in question.
Elections have consequences, Chapter 98. Donald Trump made it clear in 2015/2016 when he was campaigning that he would push de-regulation hard if elected President, but many of us (including me) did not believe he would be able to do much along those lines. I was wrong. I made the fatal mistake of assuming that legal barriers and the relative autonomy of individual states would hold him back. But he doesn't understand those things, so he just plows right over them:
On June 1, President Trump signed an executive order to fast-track energy projects like natural gas pipelines, undoing key components of a 50-year-old environmental law.
States can no longer consider any factors except water quality in acting on a 401 permit. For example, if DEQ found that the MVP Southgate project would draw down aquifers or reservoirs serving as a drinking water supply, that’s a water quantity issue, and could not be considered.
Nor can states cite climate change as a reason to deny a 401 permit.
States now have one year to act on a 401 permit request and the “clock does not stop.” Previously, when state regulators sent back a permit application, like DEQ did last year with MVP Southgate, the timetable for acting on the project paused. Now there is no pause.
If DEQ does not act on the permit within a year, the EPA can step in and approve it. The EPA can also override a state agency’s denial of a permit if the EPA disagrees with how it reached the decision.
I suppose we're lucky he didn't do this 2 years ago, and a new (Democratic) administration can roll this order back in early 2021. But possession is 9/10 of the law, and these eminent domain actions could start at any time (Steve looks at watch). Every one of them needs to be fought in court.