State Water Control Board weighs decision on Mountain Valley Pipeline

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HENRICO CO. Va. (WDBJ7) Members of the State Water Control Board are moving closer to a vote on the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

On Wednesday, they heard from opponents who fear the impact on water quality, and supporters who say they are confident the natural gas pipeline can be built and operated safely.

A staff recommendation and vote by the board is expected on Thursday.

Early arrivals found a heavy police presence at the church hall where the water control board was meeting. More than two dozen state police cruisers were in the parking lot, and a large contingent of state and local police officers were inside.

Opponents aired concerns about the karst terrain the pipeline will cross, and the impact of erosion and sedimentation downstream.

Diana Christopulos is a pipeline opponent and a member of the Roanoke Valley Appalachian Trail Club.

"We think the DEQ has put the cart before the horse, Christopulos said during a news conference. "They're going to permit this thing, before they even complete the studies on erosion and sedimentation. And our whole point is we need modeling and data. And if we don't have those, they should deny the permit for now and come back when they have that information."

Delegate-elect Chris Hurst agreed.

"We need a more robust process to do a more thorough examination," Hurst said. "And if we can do that , then i think we can get to making a decision. But today I think there are only two options and that is delay, or deny."

Supporters said the project is needed to supply additional natural gas to southwestern Virginia, and they argued it can be constructed and operated safely.

Joyce Waugh is President of the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce.

'This is a big project," Waugh told WDBJ7. ''It does need to be done right. Our water does need to be protected. And the benefits are to create jobs and investment in the region for years to come."

Robert Wells is a pipeline supporter who lives in Bedford County.

"You have thousands of miles of pipelines in our region, over 2000 in karst terrain. I think all of that proves that this can be done, and done well."

The two-day meeting of the State Water Control Board is also a preview of coming attractions. The board will return next week to review another controversial project, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.