Residents, churches, Indigenous groups, watershed groups and local governments across three counties are fervently pushing back against the 73-mile, fracked-gas MVP Southgate, a proposed extension of the dangerous and damaging Mountain Valley Pipeline.
MVP Southgate is a proposed extension of the unfinished 303-mile fracked-gas Mountain Valley Pipeline.
- Where: Pittsylvania County, Va., into North Carolina’s Rockingham and Alamance counties
- Length: 73 miles
- Width: 24 inches in diameter for the first 31 miles, and 16 inches for the remainder
- Original Estimated Completion Date (as of April 2018): 2020
- Current Estimated Completion Date: 2022
- Operator: EQM Midstream Partners
- Buyer of the Gas: PSNC Energy
- Estimated cost: $468 million
- Estimated cost: Up to $500 million
- Additional Infrastructure: The Lambert compressor station near Chatham, Va.
Construction on the contested 303-mile MVP mainline through West Virginia and Virginia has already destroyed woodlands, seized private property and violated commonsense water protections hundreds of times. Despite this horrible track record, the companies building the MVP now want to bring their pipeline into North Carolina — but Appalachian Voices is working alongside our partners to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, spawned the idea of the Southgate extension in April 2018. The project would extend the main pipeline from Pittsylvania County, Virginia into North Carolina’s Rockingham and Alamance counties. The proposal demands a 50-foot permanent easement on landowners’ property with a temporary construction easement of up to 100 feet. The project would also require a massive, polluting compressor station in a predominately Black community near Chatham, Va.
Although MVP, LLC, originally expected Southgate to be operational by late 2020, the company has since pushed back their projections to 2023.
Dangerous and Unnecessary
As with other fracked-gas pipelines, Southgate would negatively impact communities, climate and the environment. Clearing the 100-foot easement of vegetation would cause severe erosion problems, a recurring issue for the unfinished main MVP.
Muddy erosion from construction could easily deplete or contaminate groundwater supplies in the rural area where many people rely on private wells for their drinking water. Additionally, an explosion could damage any structures within a half-mile. Community members have also expressed concern about losing their land to the private pipeline developers through eminent domain. Building this pipeline also further commits the country to polluting fossil fuels.
Southgate not Needed
A July 2019 Applied Economics Clinic report found that PSNC Energy, the Dominion Energy subsidiary that contracted to buy most of the gas that would flow through MVP Southgate, overestimated how much gas they will actually need in the future. Alternative projections of growth in gas demand for the region predict 1.2 to 1.6 percent annual growth in the next 5 years, in comparison to PSNC’s projection of 2.2 percent annual
“Considering the massive disruption to the land, waters and lives of the people living along these interstate pipeline routes, regulators must look at the facts in this report and conclude that not only is another new pipeline not necessary here, it’s also not worth the cost.” — Appalachian Voices’ North Carolina Program Manager Amy Adams
Even the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality agrees that that MVP Southgate is an unneeded risk. In August 2020, the agency denied Southgate’s application for a Clean Water Act permit.
“This has always been an unnecessary project that poses unnecessary risks to our environment and given the uncertain future of the MVP Mainline, North Carolinians should not be exposed to the risk of another incomplete pipeline project,” said then-DEQ Secretary Micheal Regan in an August 2020 statement. “North Carolina’s clean energy future is not dependent on adding more natural gas infrastructure.”
After MVP appealed the decision, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals requested that the DEQ clarify its denial. On April 29, 2021, the agency provided additional reasoning and reaffirmed its denial of the permit.
Speaking Out Against the Pipeline
Landowners, environmental groups, local governments and state agencies have spoken out against the project. In September 2018, Alamance County Commissioners passed a resolution opposing Southgate that raised concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the county’s water quality. Officials in Stoneville, N.C., passed a resolution in opposition to the pipeline in October 2018, citing environmental concerns.
In December 2018, Appalachian Voices — alongside our partners Appalachian Mountain Advocates, the Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Haw River Assembly and Sierra Club — legally intervened in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval process. We argued that the pipeline is not needed, would significantly damage land and water, hurt communities and further commit the nation to climate-altering fossil fuels.
In September 2019, FERC released a heavily flawed Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Southgate that failed to consider the actual need for the pipeline. Thousands of people voiced opposition during the public comment period, as did the NCDEQ.
Stopping the Lambert Compressor Station
MVP developers want to build a fracked gas compressor station in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, to connect the Mountain Valley Pipeline to the proposed MVP Southgate extension. The Lambert compressor station would pressurize and pump fracked gas, emitting air pollution in the county’s majority Black Banister District. Local communities and environmental advocates have pushed back against the proposal, which would be the third compressor station on Transco Road.
On Dec. 3, 2021, after two days of public, industry and agency comments spread over two days, six of the seven members of the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board voted to deny the air pollution permit for the Lambert Compressor Station. The board focused on environmental justice concerns and the cumulative air quality impacts from the existing compressor stations, including the toxicity of particulate matter that would be emitted from the facility.
Had the permit been granted, nearby communities would be subjected to additional air emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate matter 2.5, and formaldehyde — substances known to contribute to respiratory problems, heart disease and cancer.
FERC’s Rubber Stamp: FERC tends to approve just about every pipeline project. From 1999 to 2017, it rejected only two out of 400 gas pipelines.
Despite the overwhelming evidence and opposition against Southgate, in June 2020 FERC granted the project a conditional Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. The certificate allows developers to begin condemning private property along the route through eminent domain but will not allow construction to proceed unless the MVP mainline receives all of its permits.
“FERC’s conclusion that approval of MVP Southgate would result in ‘less-than-significant’ adverse environmental impacts flies in the face of the reality of Mountain Valley’s performance to date,” said Katie Whitehead of Pittsylvania County, Va., who lives in the path of Southgate.
Southgate is a dangerous, unnecessary pipeline that would bring harm to our region. Developers issue conflicting statements and misleading information to cover this up. Appalachian Voices and our partners continue to push back against this fracked-gas behemoth. Some of the organizations include:
Members of the Arches Grove United Church of Christ have fought MVP Southgate since 2018. Photo by Kevin Ridder