- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 27, 2018

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - Virginia environmental regulators have approved a key step forward for the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline.

The state Department of Environmental Quality announced late Monday that it has approved erosion, sediment and storm water control plans for the natural gas pipeline.

So far, only trees have been cut to clear the way for the 303-mile buried pipeline from West Virginia through southwest Virginia. Now “land disturbing activities” are approved, meaning Mountain Valley can begin full-scale construction.

Pipeline opponents say digging trenches for the pipeline along steep mountain slopes will produce sediment-laden runoff, contaminating pristine streams and infiltrating private wells and public water supplies.

After other agencies approved the project, critics focused on trying to convince DEQ and Gov. Ralph Northam to take a more cautious approach. Opponents had scheduled rallies in Richmond for Tuesday and Wednesday.

David Sligh, the conservation director for Wild Virginia, told The Roanoke Times that the DEQ “betrayed the public and doomed our streams, wetlands, and groundwater to dire threats and certain damages that should never be accepted.”

The DEQ said in a news release that plans to control erosion, sediment and storm water around the construction “will protect water quality in all areas of Virginia.”

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Information from: The Roanoke Times, http://www.roanoke.com

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