Mountain Valley Pipeline Construction and Lawsuits Advance

By Lorelei Goff

In late April, Mountain Valley Pipeline sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking for approval by May 23 to place the pipeline in service. The letter from MVP acknowledges that developers have completed less than two-thirds of the project to final restoration, and have yet to fully comply with the safety requirements from the consent agreement they reached with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

“Requesting an in-service decision by May 23 leaves the company very little time to implement the safety measures required by its agreement with PHMSA,” said Jessica Sims, Virginia field coordinator with Appalachian Voices. “There is no rush, other than to satisfy MVP’s capacity customers’ contracts — a situation of the company’s own making. We remain deeply concerned about the construction methods and the safety of communities along the route of MVP.”

Litigation around the controversial 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline continues. In March, six landowners in Franklin, Montgomery and Roanoke counties of Virginia asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their lawsuit challenging eminent domain laws used to seize their property. The suit, filed in 2020, challenges FERC’s decision to grant its authority to implement eminent domain to Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC. Landowners contend that Congress cannot delegate eminent domain powers to an agency — in this case, FERC — which took their private property and transferred rights in that property to another private party, MVP, LLC.

A decision by the high court could take months, and pipeline developers aim to complete construction of the pipeline by the end of June, making the implications uncertain. However, a favorable ruling could benefit other landowners in the future.

Also in March, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality cited MVP, LLC for violations resulting in damage to a stream and wetland, and assessed a $34,000 fine. The developers did not dispute the findings. A petition and protests across the state called on the DEQ to issue a stop work order in light of the continued violations.

“Every day, diligent construction monitors traverse our streams and steep slopes to ensure our communities are safe from MVP’s reckless construction; they are to thank for this recognition of MVP’s violations,” Russell Chisholm of the POWHR Coalition said in a statement. “However, DEQ-issued fines amount to pennies for a corporation that’s throwing billions of dollars into an impossible project, with money to spare for [Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation] suits against the community.”

A lawsuit filed by MVP, LLC against 40 individuals and two organizations in September 2023 now includes more than 50 individuals. In March, a judge removed the organization Rising Tide of North America from the lawsuit. Appalachians Against Pipelines remains named in the suit. Pipeline developers are seeking over $4 million in damages.

Critics contend the suit seeks to squelch opposition to the pipeline by preventing the organizing and funding of protests and intimidating activists.


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