The builders of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are under criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, the company disclosed this week.
MVP Joint Venture, which is building the natural gas pipeline, received a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office last month, the company said in its annual report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The Jan. 7 letter said MVP Joint Venture was under “potential criminal and/or civil violations of the Clean Water Act” by the Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The letter also asked that the company and any groups involved with construction keep documents that date back to Sept. 1, 2018. On Monday, MVP Joint Venture received a grand jury subpoena that requested specific documents related to the pipeline between Aug. 1 and the present, the filings show.
The EPA did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western Virginia said he could not “confirm or deny the existence of an ongoing investigation and have no other comment.”
Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for the project, confirmed the criminal investigation and subpoena.
“MVP is complying with the subpoena; however, we cannot predict whether any action will ultimately be brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office or what the outcome of any action would be,” she said in an email.
The Roanoke Times first reported the story Friday.
The project is expected to span 300 miles from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Pittsylvania County, Virginia, and cost $4.6 billion. It’s expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
As construction continues, the project is battling challenges in court and citations from regulators in West Virginia and Virginia. Late last year, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the State Water Control Board sued the company in circuit court over alleged environmental and permit violations. According to the SEC filing, MVP Joint Venture has started settlement negotiations.
In West Virginia, the Department of Environmental Protection has cited the project 26 times, according to DEP records. The alleged violations occurred along the pipeline’s route, and were mostly issued because MVP failed to control the site and allowed sediment-laden water to leave the site. Photos that accompany the violation notices show muddy water and sediment deposits.
The DEP, under Secretary Austin Caperton, waived the state’s authority under the federal Clean Water Act to certify — or refuse to certify or add conditions — that the project would comply with the state’s water quality standard. At the time, Caperton said he was certain MVP wouldn’t affect the environment.
“We feel very comfortable that this pipeline can be installed in an environmentally sound manner and that the environmental impacts ultimately will be zero,” he said in an interview on WV MetroNews.
A spokesman for the DEP did not respond to a request for comment.
A review last year by the Charleston Gazette-Mail and ProPublica showed that federal and state agencies repeatedly have cleared roadblocks for the project after MVP broke rules.