Major Snag

Energy companies must meet standards

The abundant, relatively easy to produce natural gas with which our area is blessed already has been an enormous boon to many Northern Panhandle and East Ohio residents. But unless it can be shipped to markets, its full potential to benefit the economy will never be realized.

Moving the gas away from wells and hundreds of miles to processing plants and end users requires an extensive network of new pipelines. Some already have been constructed. Others are in progress or being engineered.

One of the most important, the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, has hit a major snag.

A coalition of environmental groups has challenged the pipeline in federal court. More specifically, they are questioning the state Department of Environmental Protection’s decision to certify that the project would not violate water quality standards. The focus of that is on more than 600 streams the pipeline would cross or affect otherwise.

Some of those streams are in our area; the pipeline is intended to run from Wetzel County, through West Virginia in a southeasterly direction and into Virginia.

If the environmental groups are correct, it certainly appears the DEP was, shall we say, overly flexible in granting the certification. In effect, it appears the agency refrained from conducting a full review of the proposed project.

Last week, the DEP revealed it “hereby vacates and remands” its water quality certification for the pipeline. That may avoid a defeat in federal court for the agency — and pipeline developers.

At some point, the pipeline should be constructed. Without such infrastructure, the natural gas our nation needs for a variety of purposes would be shut in at wells. That would be irresponsible.

However, gas can be produced, transported and processed in an environmentally responsible manner. We do not need to devastate West Virginia’s beautiful mountains, forests and streams to benefit from gas.

Energy companies should be required to meet that standard — and the DEP simply must ensure they do so. Officials at the agency should rethink the water quality certification process to ensure that happens in this situation.