Russell Chisholm, Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights Coalition, email@example.com, 540-404-2727
Jessica Sims, Appalachian Voices, firstname.lastname@example.org, 804-356-1228
With the close of a public comment period yesterday, the U.S. Forest Service has received more than 1,800 personal comments and approximately 6,000 comments through organizational petitions from groups urging the agency to drop its plans to allow the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline to cut through the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia’s mountains.
The agency proposes changing 11 of its own environmental rules protecting the publicly owned forest in order to accommodate the massive fracked-gas pipeline. Among other things, the rules protect old-growth forests, soil health, wildlife and scenic viewsheds.
“The US Forest Service can now get back to ‘caring for the land and serving the people’ for generations to come by first listening to the thousands of us who rejected MVP from day one,” said Russell Chisholm, co-chair of the Protect Our Water Heritage Rights coalition. “It is time to reverse course on a project that is in direct conflict with their stated mission, side with the public, and stop capitulating to MVP and FERC.”
“National forests belong to the people, and thousands of people have spoken, rejecting the agency’s idea to bend over backwards to allow a for-profit company to wreck our natural resources just to make a buck. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is not needed and not wanted. It’s time to put a stop to it once and for all,” said Jessica Sims, Virginia Field Coordinator for Appalachian Voices.
The public comment period was for a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Forest Service in September. The agency’s original environmental study was thrown out by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2018 in a challenge brought by multiple conservation groups. In addition to the forest permit, the pipeline developer still needs several federal water-crossing permits which are currently being contested in court.
“As the Mountain Valley Pipeline continues to rack up delays, with billion dollar increases in spending and recent stays preventing construction, the future becomes clearer and clearer: the MVP will suffer the same fate as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The U.S. Forest Service should listen to the public as we urge them NOT to reconsider their forest management standards for a fraught project that would only harm Virginian lands and peoples,” said Elle De La Cancela, Central Virginia Grassroots Organizer for Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
The agency states in its draft environmental statement that the alleged economic benefit of the pipeline, being developed by a private, for-profit company, justifies environmental damage on public lands. However, Appalachian Voices and numerous other organizations argue that the MVP developers have never definitively shown a domestic need for the fracked-gas and that in fact, demand for gas is flat.
Not only would the Forest Service’s plan to change 11 rules directly harm natural and recreational resources on the Jefferson, it would also set a dangerous precedent for additional unneeded fossil-fuel infrastructure on national forests across America by equating a private company’s stated claims of economic development with public benefit.