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Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC v. North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality

ELR Citation: 51 ELR 20041
Nos. 20-1971, (4th Cir., 03/11/2021)

The Fourth Circuit granted a pipeline company's petition to review the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality's (NCDEQ's) denial of a CWA §401 certification for construction of a natural gas pipeline. The company argued the denial was arbitrary and capricious because NCDEQ did not comply with its own regulations. The court found that the Department's reasoning for denying the certification was consistent with its water quality standards, namely its riparian buffer rules. The company next argued that NCDEQ exceeded its CWA statutory authority because it based its decision on policy goals unrelated to water quality. The court found that for the same reasons, the Department's decision was consistent with the CWA. Last, the company argued NCDEQ failed to adequately explain its decision. The court found that the Department failed to address the hearing officer's minimization findings and explain why it chose to deny certification rather than granting it conditionally. It therefore granted the company's petition, vacated the denial, and remanded to NCDEQ for further proceedings.