SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — A major victory for the Mountain Valley Pipeline on Tuesday meant a major loss for the environmental conservation group ‘Preserve Salem,’ which has been working to prevent approval of a permit for the pipeline.

In a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, Dec. 14, the State Water Control Board agreed to issue the permit, which outlines requirements the company will have to abide by to protect streams during construction and address permanent impacts on delicate wetland ecosystems.

According to Cynthia Munley with Preserve Salem, “They want to permit this filthy dirty pipeline, MVP, under the Clean Water Act. That’s absolutely outrageous. If that happens, that’s the end of environmental protection in this country.”

Munley says the group — which met in Salem to discuss their next move against the Department of Environmental Quality — wants to take them to court.

“Not only are we trying to save our local environment, but were trying to work our way back to democracy in this country,” said Munley.

Amy Shea isn’t a part of Preserve Salem, but showed up on Tuesday in support of their efforts. Her main concern is that implementing the pipeline will destroy underwater life underwater.

“It’s not just the fish in the water that matter,” said Shea. “It’s the muscles, the snails, it’s the tiny fish that they’re not going to be able to catch in their nets.”

Freeda Cathcart, the Soil Water Conservation District Director for Roanoke City, was also in attendance in Salem after going to the State Water Control Board meeting.

“I was very disappointed that the board did not allow public comment,” Cathcart said. “They usually allow public comments before they render a decision.”

According to representative for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the company is pleased with their choice, saying they believe they’ve proven they can cross bodies of water without impacting the sensitive ecosystem.

Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, is pleased with the board’s decision Tuesday, December 14, 2021, to approve the water permit for the MVP project. We appreciate the diligence of DEQ staff in performing a comprehensive and rigorous analysis of the data. The facts show that remaining waterbody crossings can be completed successfully and without adverse impacts to sensitive resources as the project team has proposed. In fact, Mountain Valley already has successfully performed multiple crossings of waterbodies and wetlands in Virginia, without adverse impacts to water quality, and total project work now stands at nearly 94 percent complete. 

Natalie Cox, Spokesperson, Mountain Valley Pipeline

Even with Tuesday’s decision, the pipeline is not a guarantee. Final approval now rests in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees all gas lines that cross state lines.

If approved, the Mountain Valley Pipeline would stretch more than 300 miles, with 107 of those miles running through the Commonwealth.

In addition, the company says more than 5,000 jobs will be created over the course of the pipeline’s creation, including 2,600 solely for construction and another 34 for ongoing maintenance.