Senator Tim Kaine recently completed a series of listening sessions in communities where Mountain Valley Pipeline proposes to build a 42-inch natural gas transmission line, meeting with “affected property owners, local elected officials, local businesses, farmers, organizations dedicated to preserving our natural resources, and numerous other concerned citizens.”
Kaine then wrote directly to the commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) identifying concerns about (1) minimizing impacts of any project through examination of cumulative impacts of different projects and an honest look at community benefits compared to negative impacts; and (2) the need “to empower the public to verify these efforts by ensuring that all relevant information is made available and that there is ample opportunity for public input and comment. Citizens rightly expect that process to be followed to the letter.”
In terms of impact, Kaine specifically requested that FERC clarify:
- The level of gas demand needed to justify building a distribution branch of the MVP.
- The steps needed to make this possible — for instance, approximately how much it would cost to build a transfer station to bring supply via a new MVP distribution branch.
- The extent to which the gas traveling through the pipeline is likely to be exported because “the people in this area of Virginia bear the potential risks of this infrastructure and deserve to know where the gas is going.”
On the environmental front, Kaine asked the FERC to determine:
- Whether FERC requires or encourages reroutes of the pipeline to avoid land tracts under conservation easement, which property owners understood would be protected in perpetuity.
- What measures are being taken to prevent impacts to water resources in areas with no water access other than groundwater.
- How the pipeline will be built to safely miss rivers along this route.
- Where and how technology to build safely on karst topography has been demonstrated.
- The degree of information-sharing and consultation that has taken place among FERC, the interested companies, and the National Park Service, given that the route would have to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail.
The Senator also noted several major process concerns and concluded by saying that he would “strongly encourage … that FERC painstakingly follow the system we have in place for evaluating infrastructure. Permitting a pipeline should involve an exhaustive process of eliminating all but the least disruptive construction options. The people whose livelihoods may be affected by a project should have ample opportunity to gather information, get their questions answered, and analyze alternatives —on a timeline conducive to participation by people for whom energy pipeline permitting is not a professional occupation. In short, simply having a public comment process is insufficient if that process is not easily accessible to the public.”
Click here for a full copy of Kaines letter.