UPDATE: On Sept. 22, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to lift the stop work order on the majority of the pipeline’s route by Sept. 25. Time and time again, the company has shown that it is woefully ill-suited at following environmental guidelines. It’s absolutely critical that FERC keep the stop work order in place for the sake of the many vulnerable species and communities in the pipeline’s path.
On Aug. 25, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC filed a request for a two-year extension on its Certificate for Public Convenience and Necessity that is set to expire in the middle of October. This certificate is granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and is a requirement for interstate pipeline construction. Appalachian Voices and other environmental groups gathered 43,000 grassroots comments during a 15-day comment period to send to FERC to ask the agency to reject the request made by the company.
On Sept. 9, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia requested an extension on the comment period and FERC has temporarily extended the comment period until they have time to respond to the request. If you have not submitted comments on the extension request, you still have time! View this guide for instructions on how to submit a comment.
Appalachian Voices believes FERC should reject the extension because the Mountain Valley Pipeline is not the same project that the commission reviewed in 2016 and 2017. The environmental and public interest findings underlying FERC’s authorization for the Mountain Valley Pipeline are no longer valid. The scope of the project has changed drastically, and the cost of the project has ballooned to almost $6 billion. The company originally estimated a $3.5 billion price tag and recently discussed increasing compression in order to expand the amount of gas that can flow through the pipeline by 25 percent.
Regarding the project’s anticipated environmental impacts, problems plaguing construction continue to accumulate, and Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC has shown it cannot comply with existing permit conditions. The project has lacked several required permits for years following court-ordered permit annulments and agency suspensions.
At the time developers requested an extension on Aug. 25, the pipeline lacked at least six required permits:
- A U.S. Forest Service Amendment to the Forest Plan for Jefferson National Forest that was annulled by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2018, which would allow the pipeline to cross through the National Forest
- A Bureau of Land Management right-of-way under the Mineral Leasing Act that was annulled by the Fourth Circuit in July 2018 that would allow the pipeline to cross land maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement which was rescinded by the Fourth Circuit in October 2019. The opinion details the amount of harm that will come to threatened and endangered species as a result of construction (REINSTATED 9/4/2020)
- Three U.S. Army Corps of Engineers verifications of Nationwide Permit 12 (Huntington, WV, Norfolk, VA, and Pittsburgh, PA districts) that give permission and set guidelines for crossing waters of the United States. The Huntington District verification was annulled by the Fourth Circuit in November 2018 which led to the other districts voluntarily suspending theirs.
The voided biological opinion and incidental take statement caused FERC to order Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC to stop work “along all portions of the Project,” other than “stabilization” activities on Oct. 15, 2019. While the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service issued a new Biological Opinion for the project on Sept. 4, 2020, the pipeline still lacks the other required permits listed above.
On Sept. 22, developers asked FERC to lift the stop work order on the majority of the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s route. In its request, the company stated that completing construction would be best for the environment and for affected landowners. This is an appalling statement — far and away, the best thing for communities and the environment would be for MVP, LLC to stop building this destructive, unnecessary pipeline.
Even when these required permits were in place, the company and its contractors demonstrated that they are unable to build this pipeline without causing significant environmental harm. To date, construction of the pipeline has led to more than 300 reported water quality violations in Virginia alone due to improper sediment and erosion control, and the company has accumulated more than $2 million in fines.
In addition, the developers’ claim that the project is 92 percent complete is misleading. The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, using data from construction reports submitted by Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, argue that the project as a whole is just over 51 percent complete (pipeline welded, buried and land restored) and only 15 percent complete in Virginia. If construction were to resume, impacts to land and water quality can only be expected to worsen, as the remaining construction includes more challenging water crossings and steeper slopes than those areas where the contractors have worked thus far.
When FERC issued a certificate for the Mountain Valley Pipeline in 2017, economic analysis of the region indicated that existing gas infrastructure was more than sufficient to meet regional energy demand. Since then, the domestic demand for natural gas has actually fallen more than four percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Other projects, such as the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline expansion in Pennsylvania, have provided sufficient additional capacity to end users for the capacity that the Mountain Valley Pipeline could have provided. Moreover, Consolidated Edison, Inc, which holds a shipping contract for the Mountain Valley Pipeline and is one of the companies that comprise MVP, LLC, recently indicated that it is moving away from gas transmission investments and is considering selling off its ownership in the pipeline.
Even if the company were to receive more of its missing permits, additional legal challenges can be expected for the project. The pipeline is not needed and cannot be built safely. The remaining permits should not be reinstated and the request for extension on the certificate should be denied.