by KATE SHUNNEY
The West Virginia Environmental Quality Board has denied a request by two Morgan County residents to move an appeal hearing on the Mountaineer Gas pipeline from Charleston to the Eastern Panhandle.
In March, Susan Taylor Dropp and Laura Steepleton filed an appeal of Mountaineer Gas’ DEP stormwater permit, which was granted in February. The permit allowed the Charleston company to begin construction of a 23-mile natural gas transmission line from Morgan to Berkeley county.
Dropp and Steepleton have asked the state’s Environmental Quality Board to pull the permit and make Mountaineer Gas go through a more rigorous permitting process to prove that construction of line won’t pollute local waterways or cause water contamination problems for private wells.
A May 10 evidentiary hearing was set in the case. Dropp and Steepleton, through their attorney, requested the hearing be held in Martinsburg so members of the appeal board could view the construction project and nearby areas.
Attorneys for the DEP and Mountaineer Gas asked the Environmental Quality Board to deny the request to hold the May 10 hearing in the Eastern Panhandle.
In a filing with the DEP in response to the April 4 Change of Forum request, the attorneys argued that moving the hearing venue would require too much effort for the parties involved.
“All of the records related to this appeal are maintained at WVDEP headquarters in Charleston. All of the WVDEP’s witnesses in this matter are located in the Charleston headquarters. Further, the Mountaineer Gas Company’s witnesses are located in Charleston. Lastly, the Board customarily meets in Charleston, and its staff and facilities are located in the WVDEP’s Charleston headquarters,” the motion says. “Simply put, the Appellants’ request would require the Board, the WVDEP, and Mountaineer Gas Company to pack up witnesses and documents necessary for the evidentiary hearing in this matter and travel to Martinsburg.”
On April 5, the state board said the evidentiary hearing will be held in Charleston, not Martinsburg.
UPDATED April 12 with correction — The Environmental Quality Board, not the Department of Environmental Protection, rejected the request to hold the permit appeal in the Eastern Panhandle.