By Ridge Graham and Jessica Sims
Catch up on updates about the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline and its Southgate extension with upcoming events, regulatory developments and the latest news that affects the construction of these projects and the communities fighting back against them.
Lambert Compressor Station
The Lambert Compressor Station, which is proposed to be built outside of Chatham, Virginia, is the sole compressor station for MVP Southgate, a proposed 73-mile extension of the unfinished 303-mile fracked-gas Mountain Valley Pipeline. A public hearing for the compressor station’s air permit was supposed to be held at the summer Air Pollution Control Board meeting on July 7. This meeting was going to be held after Virginia Governor Northam’s emergency COVID orders were lifted at the end of June, which would have prevented any kind of public participation from community members unless they were to drive almost three hours to Richmond on a weekday.
After significant attention and pushback, the public hearing was postponed until the fall Air Pollution Control Board hearing in September. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has not indicated whether this hearing will be held in Richmond or whether or not there will be a remote access option for community members and other concerned citizens who spoke at the initial public hearing back in February. Appalachian Voices and our partner groups have sent a letter urging the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to make the hearing more accessible.
Eminent Domain Suspension
On August 13, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission suspended the eminent domain privileges for MVP Southgate that would allow them to condemn private property along the route in order to build the pipeline and maintain a right-of-way. This decision was in response to 15 North Carolina state legislators who requested that FERC pause the company’s ability to use eminent domain while the pipeline has several missing permits and ongoing litigation. These legislators include Rep. Ricky Hurtado, whose district encompasses part of Alamance County, the county where MVP Southgate is proposed to end.
Clean Water Act 401 Denial
Last year, after a lengthy regulatory process, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality made a decision to deny a crucial Clean Water Act permit that would have allowed MVP Southgate to cross rivers, streams, and wetlands along the route. MVP sued the NCDEQ for this decision on both the state and federal level. The authority for the NCDEQ to deny the project’s permit was upheld by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and the NCDEQ reissued its denial of the permit in April 2021 with more explanation. In June, MVP’s legal counsel asked the NCDEQ to reconsider its decision or to waive its authority to review if MVP were to reapply for the same permit for the Southgate extension in the future. NCDEQ has not yet responded.
Potential Duke Energy Connection
In July, the executive summary for Duke Energy’s controversial energy bill, HB 951, stated that some of MVP Southgate’s gas capacity could be used to transition one of North Carolina’s largest coal-fired power plants, Roxboro Steam Station, to methane gas. The bill was drafted in secret and has received a great deal of pushback from lawmakers, advocacy groups and citizens alike. Its odds of passage are uncertain, and it is unclear at this time how serious the proposal to supply gas to the Roxboro plant is or if the capacity in Southgate would be enough to meet the needs of this conversion.
Monacan Indian Nation and Sappony Tribe – MVP settlement
In a letter to FERC filed on August 16, counsel to the Monacan Indian Nation and Sappony Tribe indicated that they had reached a settlement with the developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate extension and were “withdrawing their objections to the permitting process and have moved to dismiss any existing claims in any pending litigation related to the projects.” The letter concluded that this settlement and decision “should not be construed as the Tribes’ support for the pipeline projects.”
Opposing MVP Southgate – Upcoming Events
Pittsylvania NAACP Webinar – Community Circle of Protection for Environmental Justice
Discussion on Lambert Compressor Station
Thursday, August 19 at 6:30 p.m., open to the public.
Bundle of Arrows, hosted by 7 Directions of Service
Friday, August 27, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.:
Virtual workshops and trainings for Indigenous leaders and environmental activists. Offerings will include: Free Prior Informed Consent Workshop, Health Effects of Fracking, How to Lobby and Rights of Nature. Schedule to follow registration.
Saturday, August 28, 1-5 p.m.:
Gather near Burlington, N.C., for a COVID-safe rally, art share and concert (Outdoors, Masks & Vaccinations Required = Our Children’s Safety). Register and stay tuned for more information. Musical guests so far: Alexis Raeana & Charly Lowry, Høly River, Jason Crazy Bear Campos-Keck, and Joshua Vana. More to come.
Pending Permits for Mountain Valley Mainline
Mountain Valley Pipeline’s mainline still lacks multiple federal and state permits that would allow it to cross waterways. Earlier this year, the Army Corps of Engineers held their public comment period for a 404 permit, reviewing public input and providing their own analysis of MVP’s request to cross remaining water bodies. They will announce their decision regarding the permit most likely at the start of 2022, after West Virginia and Virginia have determined whether they will grant the state-level component of the water permit, which is known as the 401.
Both West Virginia and Virginia will make their state-level determinations before the end of this year. Per deadlines set by the Army Corps, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is required to make their decision to deny or grant the 401 permit by the close of November. Their public comment period ended earlier this year.
In Virginia, the Department of Environmental Quality has said it expects to release the draft permit for the MVP’s 401 permit before September, and will then host a series of public hearings and open a public comment period. The permit decision will likely be made at the December State Water Control Board meeting, as the Army Corps stated a decision must be made by the end of the calendar year.
On the FERC Docket
On Friday, August 13, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff released an Environmental Assessment of Mountain Valley Pipeline’s request to bore under 180 water bodies in West Virginia and Virginia in docket CP21-57. The assessment was released soon after the most recent comment period closed on August 2. There is now a public comment period for technical comments open until September 13.
During previous comment periods, Appalachian Voices and supporters submitted hundreds of comments to the agency in opposition to the request to bore. The FERC commissioners will vote on whether to accept the request to change water crossing methods and allow boring at an upcoming meeting. A previous request to bore under a large number of waterbodies was met with a deadlocked 2-2 vote from the FERC commission. Of note, the term of Commissioner Chatterjee has ended, and President Biden will soon appoint a new commissioner to the five-member panel.
Water Quilt Project Connects Communities and Artists
The Water Quilt Project, a beautiful and moving project from ARTivism Virginia, was recently displayed in its finished form at a community event. The project combined art and activism, connecting those impacted by the MVP, allies from multiple states, and quilters to give “voice to the water or the waterway they love and value.” Held in collaboration with Appalachian Voices, POWHR Coalition, Haw River Assembly and Preserve Monroe, the project invited artists to create quilt squares, which were assembled into a series of three large quilts.
The finished pieces were displayed at the Water Quilt Convergence on July 10 in Newport, Virginia, which featured local residents impacted by MVP and other quilters sharing about their squares, and live music from the SUNSiNG Collective. Attendees were invited to add a stitch to the finished pieces, another creative step in connecting communities, activism and art.
Recent News & Media About MVP & MVP Southgate
- It’s taken the heart out of the community – Mountain Valley Pipeline cuts through tiny village of Newport – August 14, 2021 Roanoke Times
- Democratic state lawmakers ask FERC to temporarily stop MVP Southgate from using eminent domain – commission agrees – August 13, 2021, NC Policy Watch
- Judge denies request to stop blasting for pipeline construction on Bent Mountain – August 13, 2021 Roanoke Times
- Hileman and Bowers: Mountain Valley Pipeline is an unnecessary imposition, August 11, 2021, Roanoke Times
- Fossil fuel companies turn to “green” pipelines to qualify for new subsidies – August 10, 2021, Truthout