The project’s harms are well documented, and so is the continuously expanding public pushback against the methane-gas pipeline.
Fresh from a multi-stage fight to keep the pipeline from winning favors from Congress through Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Dirty Deal in 2022, we saw the new year bring tremendous public participation in the next stage of the effort to stop this reckless pipeline.
Currently, Mountain Valley Pipeline is missing authorizations from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The pipeline company is pursuing new versions of these authorizations, so the agencies accepted public input in early 2023 on the application materials — and the tens of thousands of people opposing new permissions to pollute made their voices loud and clear. Appalachian Voices is deeply thankful to everyone who signed our petitions to the agencies and submitted comments!
Tens of thousands submit messages of opposition
Before the close of two public comment periods in February, over 40,000 individuals submitted their opposition to potential new permissions to pollute. Opponents highlighted to the Forest Service the harm MVP would bring to treasured federal land and argued that the agency shouldn’t break its own rules to accommodate the pipeline. In filings to the Army Corps, the public shared how the project would cause lasting damage to water resources. The publicly viewable filings to the Forest Service included 12,555 signatories from 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.
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 result. Those closest to the path of this project know how unnecessary, damaging and dangerous it is — and we know that federal agencies have the power and responsibility to listen to the people and reject the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Agency calls its own decision into question
On February 28, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a new Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement. Under the framework of the Endangered Species Act, this authorization indicates how much harm to endangered and threatened species is acceptable to the agency. The agency concluded that construction of MVP would not jeopardize the continued existence of protected species, including the endangered candy darter, which is found in watersheds along the route. Unfortunately, the agency did not seek public input in this consultation process, which closed on February 28. The agency had up to 45 days after that process ended to issue their decision.
Of note, the FWS acknowledged that they had not considered recent filings they’d received, and acknowledged that this may impact the utility of the new Biological Opinion. Specifically, FWS said that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “must also consider whether the late submissions contain any new information that may require reinitiation,” indicating the entire review process may need to be revisited. The review process is called “Section 7 consultation” and requires federal agencies to ensure proposed actions will not jeopardize the existence of endangered or threatened species.
Legal outcomes to be determined
On the litigation front, rulings in multiple court cases related to Mountain Valley Pipeline have yet to come down. Multiple environmental organizations, including Appalachian Voices, are challenging MVP’s Clean Water Act Section 401 certifications from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The 4th Circuit Court heard the oral arguments for the West Virginia case in October 2022 and arguments for the Virginia case in January 2023.
Additionally, in 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted MVP a two-year extension — a decision environmental and community advocates, including Appalachian Voices, challenged in the D.C. Circuit Court. That case, too, is waiting for a decision by the court. Although the project remained volatile and the 2020 case was unresolved, FERC again granted more time to MVP in 2022, approving an additional four-year extension through Oct 13, 2026. When issuing its decision, FERC acknowledged that the “validity of our conclusions and environmental conditions cannot be sustained indefinitely.”
Deadline looms for MVP Southgate
Adding to the overall volatility of the MVP mainline is an upcoming certificate expiration for the proposed MVP Southgate extension. The proposed extension would run from Chatham, Virginia, into Alamance and Rockingham counties in North Carolina. This project also continues to face robust community opposition.
Join with local community leaders 7 Directions of Service and the Dan Riverkeeper to see just what would be harmed by Southgate’s construction. Attend a Paddle on the Dan River on Saturday, May 27th!
Facing a June 2023 expiration of their FERC Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, the developers will likely ask for an extension. Of note, Southgate also lacks the required state-level permits: a Water Quality Certification under Clean Water Act Section 401 from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and the air quality permit from Virginia’s DEQ for Southgate’s proposed Lambert Compressor Station. The lack of state-level permits adds to the argument that the project is unlikely to happen — and FERC should not extend the certificate. Your help will soon be needed to weigh in on this certificate extension request!
The future’s not bright for MVP but your help will continue to be needed in 2023!
As the 118th congressional session gets underway, there are efforts to disguise the dismantling of bedrock environmental protections as permitting “reform.” These recent efforts, like the Dirty Deal of 2022, are actually deregulation attempts that would weaken key environmental protections and remove the public voice from project decisions which impact communities. You can help today by taking action here.
Mountain Valley Pipeline continues to face many roadblocks — and your work has been integral to holding the project, agencies, regulators and decision-makers accountable. Your continued help is needed as future agency decisions will call for public comment and provide opportunities to object to moving the ruinous Mountain Valley Pipeline forward. Thank you for being part of this fight to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Appalachian Voices will continue to work in solidarity with the communities impacted by the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Southgate extension until these projects are defeated.