Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is seen in a promotional video from Equitrans Midstream, the company which will be operating the pipeline. Photo courtesy Equitrans Midstream/Vimeo
Dec. 31 (UPI) -- West Virginia regulators granted a crucial permit for the construction of a controversial natural gas pipeline Thursday.
The state's Department of Environmental Protection approved the Mountain Valley Pipeline's water quality certification, signaling that the pipeline has met state standards.
Construction on the pipeline, which will run for 303 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, began in 2018 and about 94% of the work on it has already been completed with about 20 linear miles left to be constructed, according to the company.
The water quality permit was required before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could approve further dredge-and-fill permits needed to complete construction. The pipeline is expected to begin service in summer 2022.
The approval from the West Virginia regulators comes after Virginia approved a water quality permit for the pipeline earlier this month.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline has received significant opposition from environmental groups such as Appalachian Voices, an organization that has launched numerous campaigns to protect the air, water, and land in the AppalachianMountains region.
Appalachian Voices filed a legal action, being challenged in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, with several other environmental groups to oppose the approval of the water quality permit by Virginia's State Water Control Board.
The environmental groups alleged in the legal action, which seeks to have the federal court review the granting of the permit, that the Mountain Valley Pipeline has already been fined $2 million for more than 35 0water quality-related violations in Virginia and West Virginia.
"Contrary to robust evidence that the MVP cannot be built without violating state water quality standards," Peter Anderson, policy director for Appalachian Voices Virginia, said in a statement. "Despite the company's wretched environmental track record, the West Virginia's DEP has regrettably granted MVP new permission to pollute."
According to the West Virginia News, the pipeline is projected to permanently impact 1,276 feet of streams and less than a half-acre of wetlands while temporarily impacting more than 20,000 feet of streams and about 12 acres of wetlands.
Anderson added an appeal to the Biden administration, hoping that the president would intervene.
"We hope the Biden Administration listens to the thousands of members of the public who oppose this project and finds that more water pollution in service of an unneeded project is not in the public interest," he said.