FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 24, 2023
ROANOKE, Virginia — In response to the U.S. Forest Service’s intention to break 11 of its own rules for the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline, over 30,000 individuals and organizations submitted their opposition to the agency’s plan ahead of a February 21 deadline. A comment period initiated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a new effort at a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit is expected to generate more than 10,000 comments from those opposed to the misguided project by the time it ends Saturday.
The U.S. Forest Service, charged with protecting and managing national forests, had previously amended its own conservation rules governing old-growth forests, scenic viewsheds and soil health to accommodate the Mountain Valley Pipeline, but courts rejected these authorizations in 2018 and again in 2022. The new comment period was a result of the agency’s proposal to re-grant permission for the fracked-gas project to cross the Jefferson National Forest.
Courts also rejected the biological opinion and incidental take statement issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, prompting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to commit to withholding the Clean Water Act permit for water crossings until a valid biological opinion has been issued. Even though it has not received that opinion, MVP submitted an application to the Army Corps.
In their comments opposing the USFS permit, members of the public highlighted the Jefferson National Forest’s scenic beauty and its treasured public recreational resources. Technical submissions focused on the negative impacts to water resources, riparian buffers and habitat for rare animals and plants. Commenters overwhelmingly opposed amending 11 rules for one project, and noted the dangerous precedent it could set for allowing more unnecessary fossil fuel infrastructure on cherished public land.
Appalachian Voices and 7 Directions of Service submitted a petition with 12,555 signatories in opposition to the suggested USFS changes. Additional organizational submissions were submitted by Food & Water Watch, Oil Change International, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, 198 Methods, Climate Hawks, and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. The Wilderness Society, Virginia Scientist-Community Interface, Wild Virginia and Preserve Craig were among the organizations who submitted technical filings.
“Routed through traditional homelands of the Occaneechi, Monacan, Tutelo and Saponi Nations, the Mountain Valley Pipeline would bring disproportionate exposure to health hazards for the people and species along its path,” said Dr. Crystal Cavalier-Keck, co-founder of 7 Directions of Service. “We will stand to fight the major corporations that have proven they do not value people, animals, plants or the land.”
“These tens of thousands of comments opposing Mountain Valley Pipeline reflect the deep-seated concerns of residents who have watched this company run roughshod over communities and the Appalachian landscape with little regard to the impacts or dangers that will result,” said Jessica Sims, Virginia field coordinator with Appalachian Voices. “Those closest to the path of this project know how unnecessary, damaging and dangerous it is. Federal agencies have the power and responsibility to listen to the people and reject the Mountain Valley Pipeline.”
Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.