Front Porch Blog

The latest on Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate

Opponents of Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate gathered recently for a Water Walk hosted by 7 Directions of Service. Photo by Russell Chisholm

Even as Mountain Valley Pipeline’s rushed construction results in landslides and muddy waters in Virginia and concerned residents call for state and federal authorities to stop the damage, communities to the south are facing new and changing threats from the pipeline’s proposed Southgate extension.

Last year, the developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate extension asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to extend their deadline to construct and complete the fracked gas pipeline. This request came after years of rejected permits, paused eminent domain proceedings and no forward movement for the pipeline or its compressor station. The developers blamed everyone but themselves for the delay — and unfortunately FERC seemed to accept that perspective, granting three more years for Southgate’s Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.

That decision ignored 39,000 members of the public who weighed in during the summer of 2023 to oppose the renewal. This opposition came from community leaders, grassroots groups, Virginia NAACP, more than 50 North Carolina legislators and 22 Virginia legislators, as well as North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and House Representatives Valerie Foushee, Kathy Manning, Bobby Scott and Jennifer McClellan. Unfortunately, the renewal of the Southgate certificate is consistent with the rubber-stamping by FERC of all fossil fuels projects, regardless of impacts to communities or the climate.

In a dramatic turn, just 10 days after receiving a three-year certificate extension, Southgate developers announced a major revamp of the project, revising the route, length and capacity. Simply put, this new project is wholly different from the FERC-approved Southgate.

Since that announcement, federal and state legislators, and environmental advocates have asked FERC to invalidate the original certificate, requesting a formal rehearing of the extension. As 10 Virginia legislators put it in a Feb. 16 letter to FERC, the project has “changed in size, capacity and route.” Unfortunately, FERC denied the rehearing request on Feb. 20, 2024. Again, the public’s concerns are brushed aside.

Water Walk

By Juhi Modi

On a windy Saturday, Feb. 17, people gathered in Eden, North Carolina, for the Water Walk event organized by 7 Directions of Service, an Indigenous-led grassroots organization based on Occaneechi-Saponi lands that opposes MVP Southgate. Attendees were asked to bring what organizers called an ‘empty plate’ – an open and receptive mindset and a willingness to wait for an invitation and ask for permission.

The shared purpose — to protect sacred places and phase out fossil fuels — sustained a powerful energy across the day. At least 23 Native Nations from across Turtle Island and beyond were present. Speakers from near and far connected the dots across various movements fighting to protect the environment and community health. Throughout the event, people shared stories, songs and dance. Seeds of Peace, a mobile kitchen, served free meals and refreshments.

At midday, some attendees canvassed across Rockingham County to discuss MVP Southgate with community members who live near the potential route, the majority of whom had never heard of the proposed pipeline. Meanwhile, others participated in the 4.5 mile Water Walk along the Dan River and the sacred site of Lower Saur town, threatened by Southgate.

Juhi is North Carolina Field Coordinator for Appalachian Voices.

Equitrans Midstream made the redesign announcement in an end-of-year Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The company revealed plans to alter the length of the MVP Southgate extension from 75 miles to 31 and cut down the number of water crossings by removing Alamance County, North Carolina, from the route. It is unclear which new water crossings would be impacted, and the developers have not provided any maps. The developers claim they are also dropping plans for a new polluting compressor station in Pittsylvania County, but did not say why it was no longer necessary. In 2021, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board denied the proposed compressor station’s air permit on environmental justice grounds.

Mountain Valley has said the new design would provide up to 550,000 dekatherms per day of gas capacity. This is a significant increase from the original capacity of 375,000 Dth per day and an increased volume of gas means increased downstream greenhouse gas emissions. Developers also said they needed until 2028 for completion of this project.

Of note, the plans are not final. The developer said it expects “to finalize the scope of the redesigned project after it conducts an open season and executes any additional agreements for firm capacity.” The open season for the project closed on Feb 16.

A sign protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate project — before the project was altered to exclude Alamance County.

So where does this leave the original Southgate — and the new design? Landowners along the original route are left subject to Mountain Valley Pipeline’s potential use of eminent domain power for a project that MVP indicates they will not build. Those along the new potential route have no information to understand what is happening in their community. With no maps, but a significant potential increase in gas capacity, communities and advocates are deeply concerned.

Dominion Energy North Carolina has also announced a lateral, intrastate pipeline that would connect to the new version of Southgate in Eden, North Carolina, and travel 45 miles to Roxboro, North Carolina. This pipeline would pull methane gas from the new project to supply Duke Energy, which is attempting to build a new gas-fired power plant in Roxboro. Alarmingly, this appears to be a way for pipeline developers to circumvent federal review of pipelines by building a segmented line fully within North Carolina so that it is only subject to state review. North Carolina recently weakened their permit review process, with the passage of HB 600.

What remains are more questions: Why should MVP be allowed to use the recently extended certificate for their old design for a project with a full redesign? How long will landowners be kept in the dark about the new route?

What is known, is that Appalachian Voices will continue to oppose this expansion project — in any form.

Born and raised in Central Virginia, Jessica holds a lifelong passion for protecting Virginia’s waterways. She works as AV's Virginia Field Coordinator fighting against fracked-gas pipelines.


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