Monday, September 10, 2018

Judge rules that West Virginia county can't block gas pipeline compressor station through local zoning laws

"A West Virginia county, whose elected leaders have vocally resisted natural gas industry operations, has again been told by a federal judge that it must allow the work to proceed," the Charleston Gazette-Mail's Ken Ward Jr. reports for ProPublica's Local Reporting Network.

Fayette County, West Virginia (Wikipedia)
U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver ruled that Fayette County commissioners can't block a proposed compressor station for the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline using the county's local zoning ordinance, since the federal Natural Gas Act trumps local zoning rules. "It’s the second time in two years that Copenhaver has overruled efforts by Fayette leaders to protect their county from what they view as negative effects of the ongoing boom in West Virginia’s natural gas industry," Ward reports.

The county has been trying to make itself into a tourism destination after the coal industry could no longer carry the local economy. Though pipeline officials said the compressor station was designed to "limit surface disturbance and minimize the overall environmental footprint," according to documents filed in court, its proposed location isn't in an industrial area, and county leaders worried it would be dirty and loud, Ward reports.

"In November 2017, the commission turned down a request for a zoning change needed because the compressor station was proposed for an area where industrial activity isn’t allowed. The pipeline developers sued, and Copenhaver agreed with their argument that natural gas pipelines are governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, not by county ordinances," Ward reports.

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