2.01.23 The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is 5 years behind schedule, billions of dollars over budget, and only about 50% of the project has achieved final restoration. However, the companies behind this boondoggle continue to try to push the project forward. There are two permits with pending approvals from federal agencies that you can weigh in on this month. Make sure you watch our Groundhogs Day webinar for a conversation on each permit.
Permit: US Forest Service
After the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated MVP’s approval to cross 3.5 miles of the Jefferson National Forest and the Appalachian Trail in Monroe County, WV and Giles County, VA, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) released a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). Our public lands and the streams within them are managed and protected with a forest plan. The SEIS outlines 11 changes to the plan in an attempt to allow MVP to cross these sensitive areas.
**The public has until February 6, 2023 to comment.**
For years, the Mountain Valley Pipeline has struggled to obtain their stream crossing permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). First, they tried to use a basic, general permit that was not sufficient for their large-scale project. When that didn’t work, they tried to change the conditions of the general permit. That also got them into trouble, so last year they finally relented and applied for an individual permit from USACE. However, the information they supplied for that permit application was insufficient to meet the permit requirements.
In their first video in the three-part series on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, WV Rivers highlights the soils in WV.
“The Mountain Valley Pipeline was designed for flat Missouri land with less than 12% slope. We have over 85% slope here.” Soil Scientist Nan Grey explains why West Virginia’s soil structure makes the Mountain Valley Pipeline so risky.
In their second video in the three-part series on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, WV Rivers highlights landowner Karolyn Givens as she describes the impact on her historic home and property by the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Equitrans Midstream Corp. has again delayed the start date for its 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline and raised its estimated cost to $6.6 billion, more than twice the original estimate.
But the big question was whether the natural gas pipeline would ever be completed and what that could mean.
The Canonsburg-based Midstream firm said on Tuesday that it plans to apply for two environmental permits to replace the ones that were challenged and struck down in court. The process is likely to delay the restart of construction until at least the second quarter of next year.
MVP’s journey from conception in the early 2010s through permitting, construction — the project is 94% completed, according to the company — lawsuits, protesters chaining themselves to bulldozers, and project sponsors losing faith, is viewed by supporters and opponents as a cautionary tale.
The pipeline was envisioned to bring shale gas from the Marcellus and Utica in Appalachia to markets in the Southeast. It began construction in 2018 and has been beset by legal challenges. In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit invalidated two key environmental permits — one from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that concluded no endangered species would be harmed by the pipeline, and another from the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management that allowed MVP to cross the Jefferson National Forest.
A few weeks later, NextEra Energy Resources, an energy company that would be using the gas transported by MVP and part owner of the project, wrote down its entire investment $800 million — concluding that the “continued legal and regulatory challenges have resulted in a very low probability of pipeline completion.”
AltaGas, another much smaller stakeholder, has written down $271 million in Canadian dollars.
Downtown-based EQT Corp., which was one of the project developers early on and had signed up for capacity on the pipeline, has been looking to lower its exposure to it. Last month, EQT disclosed that it sold its remaining stock in Equitrans, which spun out of EQT, for $189 million. It also sold at least half of its capacity on the MVP pipeline.
In the meantime, EQT’s CEO Toby Rice has continued to talk about the pipeline project as “critical to the region” and as a litmus test for the political will to build energy infrastructure that backs up the promises being made abroad to help Europe quit Russian gas.
Mountain Valley Pipeline said Tuesday it will take longer, until summer 2022, and cost more, $6.2 billion, to complete a natural gas pipeline that will run through Southwest Virginia.
The latest in a series of such announcements was made by Equitrans Midstream Corp., the lead partner in the joint venture.
When construction began four years ago, the project was expected to be finished by late 2018 at a cost of $3.7 billion.
In a conference call with financial analysts to discuss first quarter results, Equitrans attributed the latest setback to a change in the permitting process for about 420 stream and wetland crossings that remain for the 303-mile pipeline to make.
Legal challenges by environmental groups forced Mountain Valley to abandon a blanket permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It now plans to seek individual permits to trench through some of the water bodies in Virginia and West Virginia, while asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to allow drilling tunnels under others.
Despite numerous delays and cost increases, the company continues to paint a rosy picture for investors and the public.
“Our business remains strong and robust,” Equitrans chairman and CEO Thomas Karam said. The latest delay provides more time to develop litigation-proof procedures, he said, “and reinforces our confidence that we will bring MVP into service in the summer of 2022.”
Opponents were not swayed.
“This unnecessary pipeline threatens the health of our water, people, climate, and communities,” said Russell Chisholm of Giles County, co-chair of the Protect of Water, Heritage Rights coalition.
“While this dangerous pipeline never should have been proposed in the first place, it’s not too late for MVP to wise up, cut their losses, and fold this losing hand,” Chisholm said.
Mountain Valley says it has completed work on large stretches of the pipeline, including about half of the 1,000-some crossings of streams and wetlands — perhaps the most troublesome aspect of construction.
A federal appeals court rejected one set of permits in 2018, and more recently indicated that it would do the same if Mountain Valley continued to pursue the blanket approval from the Army Corps.
After taking a winter break, construction crews resumed work in so-called “upland areas” in March and are expected to be done by September, Equitrans president and chief operating officer Diana Charletta said during the conference call.
That would give the company time to obtain approvals for about 10 miles of water body crossings and 8 miles in and next to the Jefferson National Forest. Permits are expected to be granted by the end of this year for those areas, allowing construction to ramp up again next spring, she said.
But the company still faces challenges, including obtaining a water quality certification from Virginia’s State Water Control Board.
The Department of Environmental Quality has said it will take up to a year to review the application and give the board time to act, and opponents are sure to point to Mountain Valley’s environmental problems during a public comment session.
Since the company began digging trenches for the 42-inch diameter pipeline along steep mountain terrain, regulators have cited it more than 300 times for violating erosion and sediment control regulations.
During Tuesday’s conference call, Equitrans officials were asked about an option held by EQT Corp. — a major driller of natural gas that would pay to have it transported by Mountain Valley — that will become available on Jan. 1, 2022.
If the project is not completed by then, EQT will have one year to decide whether to take a cash payment of $196 million in lieu of reduced rates that will kick in once the pipeline goes into service. No decision has been made, financial analysts were told.
Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for Mountain Valley, said the option applies to Equitrans’ gathering systems, which provide a connection between drilling wells and “any one of many transmission lines.”
“This cash payment has nothing to do with EQT’s shipping commitment,” Cox wrote in an email, noting that the company has remained supportive of Mountain Valley in public statements and regulatory filings.
Mountain Valley will ship 2 billion cubic feet per day of pressurized natural gas from the Appalachian basin to markets along the East Coast, and is particularly vital to the Southeast region, she said.
“The need for an abundant, reliable energy supply is real,” Cox wrote, “and unnecessary delays are affecting consumers.”
1 tree-sitter removed from Mountain Valley Protest protest site
ELLISTON — One of two Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters was removed from a treetop blockade Tuesday by the long arm of the law, which was made even longer with help from a towering construction crane.
Approaching the tree-sitters from above in a day-long operation, police were able to safely extract a protester from a tree stand as darkness fell on the mountains of eastern Montgomery County.
“They got her on the ground,” Sara Bohn, a member of the county board of supervisors who was allowed to witness the operation, wrote in a 6:30 p.m. text.
Efforts to remove a second tree-sitter were continuing.
Early Tuesday morning, a crane was parked on Yellow Finch Lane, at the bottom of a steep slope where the activists waited uphill in tree stands about 50 feet from the ground. The crane’s boom was extended above the trees, and a bucket with two state police officers inside was then lowered to within arm’s reach.
Bohn said police threw what appeared to be blankets and buckets from the wooden platform to the ground. The officers seemed to be talking to the occupant of the tree stand, Bohn said, but she could not hear what was said.
The tree-sitter was locked to a device called a “sleeping dragon,” which secured the protester to the tree stand, according to Capt. Brian Wright of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
After cutting through the metal lockbox, police lowered the tree-sitter to the ground in the basket. Medics found that the tree-sitter was unharmed, and the protester was rushed to the magistrate’s office in Christiansburg, Wright said.
Late Tuesday, the tree-sitter was identified as Claire Marian Fiocco, 23, from Dorset, Vermont.
Fiocco was charged with interfering with the property rights of Mountain Valley, which has an easement that is currently blocked by the tree-sitters. The defendant was being held without bail Tuesday night, the sheriff’s office said.
Crews planned to remain at the tree-sit overnight and continue negotiations with the second tree-sitter, Wright said. The second protester hasn’t been publicly identified by authorities.
Ms. Kimberly Bose, Secretary Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 888 First Street, N.E. Washington, DC 20426
Dear Ms. Bose,
We are writing to refute the claim made by MVP attorney Todd Normane in a January 26, 2021 letter to FERC (Document Accession #: 20210126-5040) that, “Therefore, the best environmental outcome for water quality, aquatic and terrestrial habitat, and the interests of landowners in the vicinity of the Project is for construction to be completed as soon as possible.” Attorney Todd Normane made no distinction in his correspondence between 1) the unnamed and supposedly ‘supportive’ landowners, 2) the hundreds of landowners MVP sued to essentially ‘force’ the sale of easements, who may have ‘voluntarily’ signed those easements, but remain opposed to MVP and 3) the landowners who have yet to sign any easement and whose land has nevertheless been ‘taken’ by eminent domain.
Many landowners report that they agreed to an easement out of fear of an eminent domain lawsuit. Other landowners who never wanted a pipeline to cross their properties are still in Federal Court fighting this ‘taking’ of their land. They do not want further desecration of their property. They do not want to see miles and miles of forest being destroyed anywhere in this region. They do not want the contamination of our pure, irreplaceable mountain springs and streams. A significant number of landowners, both on and adjacent to the ROW, have already experienced impacts to their water. Here are three specific examples: A farmer in Giles County, Virginia, adjacent to the MVP ROW, has reported a complete loss of water on his farm since MVP began construction. He stated that he has had to sell his livestock. He also has two ponds in which he grows commercial fishing bait that have gone dry. Two landowners in Monroe County, West Virginia have severe turbidity problems in their wells, which are located in karst topography. One of these landowners, adjacent to the pipeline ROW has been transporting water from another location since mid-2018 while the second landowner has to buy his water for drinking and cooking and take his laundry to a Laundromat 25 miles away. Showering and bathing can only be done when the turbidity finally decreases several days after each rain event.
A considerable number of landowners are appalled by the statements made by MVP on their behalf. They do not agree that the action proposed by MVP represents “the best environmental outcome” or their own “best interests”. These landowners have always opposed, and still oppose having the pipeline located on their property or on adjacent property. They reserve their inherent right to decide what is best for themselves, their families, and their communities. In conclusion, our members and friends from across the two Virginias do not agree with MVP’s statement that the best approach at this time is “to complete the pipeline as soon as possible” and they are outraged that MVP would dare to come to a conclusion about what is in their best interest.
Additionally, landowners along or near the pipeline route do not want any further disruption to their solitude and peace of mind. People are worn out; they are tired of noise, diesel fumes, detours, road blockages, mud and dust. The prevailing feeling is “Enough is enough!”
Some people have confided that the constant stress they have experienced has impacted their physical and mental health. When they resisted selling easements, they were dragged into court. When they finally got a chance to sleep-in, they were woken up by trees being felled. When they were on an important phone call, workers started blasting through bedrock. They were late for appointments because they got stuck at roadblocks. Every landowner we spoke with, regardless of whether they had owned their land for generations or for a few years, frequently and in some cases almost constantly, felt abused.
Additional concerns that have been raised include:
Threats related to Seismic Zone The pipeline right of way goes through steep Appalachian Mountains with a history of landslides, compounded by fragile karst topography and the existence of two earthquake zones where three significant earthquakes have occurred since the project began. Hundreds of earthquakes and tremors have been recorded over the last hundred plus years, the most recent one occurred in August of 2020 (North Carolina earthquake with 5.1-magnitude strikes north of Charlotte at Virginia border – CNN). This makes residents uneasy and is another reason why many are opposed to any further attempts to complete the MVP. (Update, two new earthquakes occurred in the region on 2-11-21 and 2-12-21 and were documented on the FERC Docket CP16-10 by Maury Johnson -Accession No.: 202102125087 on 2-12-21.) Threats to water and land The many stream crossings that may take prolonged periods of time to construct are of great concern to landowners. They are afraid that continued construction will cause more erosion and sedimentation that would imperil their water supplies. These stream crossings may require massive bore pits near water bodies and/or blasting through fragile bedrock. From our experience with the MVP, there is a long list of possible problems that could occur if construction were to be allowed to continue.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline has sunk deeper into trouble with muddy water flowing unchecked from construction sites.
A proposed consent order from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection would require the company to pay a $303,706 fine for repeated violations of erosion and sediment control regulations.
West Virginia had previously fined Mountain Valley $266,000 for similar violations along the first 198 miles of the natural gas pipeline. In Southwest Virginia, where the pipeline continues for another 105 miles, regulators have imposed more than $2 million in penalties on three separate occasions.
But pipeline opponents say the fines are too small to deter future environmental damage from the $6 billion project.
“Three hundred thousand dollars is a tiny percentage of the project’s overall cost, and does not even begin to adequately cover the damage that’s been done to our streams,” said Autumn Crowe, a staff scientist for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.
The most recent enforcement action was signed Jan. 11 by Robert Cooper, who is heading construction of Mountain Valley. The West Virginia DEP will accept written comments through March 13 before taking final action, according to spokesman Terry Fletcher.
Included in the order are 29 notices of violation from February 2019 to September 2020.
Most of the problems were related to maintenance of erosion and sedimentation controls, “all of which have been remediated with no additional corrective actions required,” Mountain Valley spokeswoman Natalie Cox wrote in an email Thursday.
“In cooperation with the WVDEP, we have enhanced the level of environmental controls that were originally approved, and the measures in place today are substantially better than those initially installed,” the email stated.
Since work began in February 2018, construction crews have struggled to prevent storm water from flowing off steep slopes that have been cleared of trees and graded so the 42-inch diameter pipe can be buried in trenches.
According to the consent order, sediment-laden water was allowed to escape the 125-wide construction zones due to failures of silt fences, water bars and other erosion control devices.
In some cases, water bars — earthen barriers built on steep slopes to divert stormwater — were improperly installed, allowing runoff to accumulate downhill in quantities that overwhelmed retention ponds.
Mountain Valley also failed to adequately plant grass on denuded strips of land, which contributed to problems with runoff, the order stated. Inspectors often observed sediment in nearby streams, which can endanger fish and other aquatic life and cause problems with water quality farther downstream.
There have also been slips, or a gradual movement of earth downhill that is akin to a slow-motion avalanche.
Last April in Lewis County, West Virginia, slips caused a segment of the pipe that had already been buried to shift in at least three locations, according to an inspection report filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Had pressurized natural gas been flowing through the pipeline, any underground movement could have caused a rupture and explosion, pipeline opponents said.
Cox said at the time that Mountain Valley would conduct an investigation as a precautionary measure, but added that the pipeline was designed to withstand minor ground shifting as it settles in the final stages of construction.
Asked about the matter Thursday, Cox said the pipe was excavated, inspected and replaced, and the hillside was stabilized using a mechanically engineered geotechnical reinforcement method.
“As an additional safety precaution, MVP crews surveyed and inspected pipe in other locations along the route to confirm that this was an isolated incident, which was the case,” her email stated.
As for the erosion problems cited in the consent order, Cox noted that of the 29 notices of violation, only four were written in 2020 despite significant rainfall that year — evidence, she said, that Mountain Valley is working to make improvements.
Although there were 29 notices issued, some of them contained multiple violations. A total number was not available Thursday.
Mountain Valley says it is on target to finish the pipeline by the end of the year, despite multiple legal challenges to its permits that have caused delays and cost overruns. The joint venture of five energy companies plans to ship 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions of the country.
Environmental groups, however, say the project will scar the scenic landscape of Southwest Virginia, clog its streams with sediment and jeopardize endangered species of fish and bats.
Last week, Appalachian Voices and six other organizations asked a federal appeals court to stay two recent orders from FERC — one lifting a stop-work order last October and the other giving Mountain Valley two more years to complete the project.
“Seemingly endless environmental violations have further slowed construction while fouling waters and land along the pipeline’s route,” the coalition said in a filing with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
The court is currently considering two legal challenges to FERC’s actions, and a stay would put pipeline work on hold until a decision is reached. Five more lawsuits are pending against other federal agencies that reissued permits after the original ones were struck down.
Mountain Valley has agreed to stop construction, with the exception of erosion and sedimentation control, until Feb. 22 — the date by which the D.C. Circuit was asked to rule on the request for a stay.
Seeking to ease a two-year logjam, Mountain Valley Pipeline will restart a permitting process to cross nearly 500 streams and wetlands that remain as barriers to the completion of its natural gas pipeline.
The company said Tuesday that it will abandon its plan to use a blanket permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which allowed the pipe to be buried in trenches dug along the bottoms of water bodies before it was challenged in court.
Instead, it will apply for individual approvals for each open-cut crossing — a more costly and time-consuming process that will require new state and federal reviews of a project already swamped by legal and regulatory delays.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has twice set aside a so-called Nationwide Permit 12, which critics say fails to adequately assess the environmental impacts of a massive pipeline fording pristine mountain streams.
Rather than continue the legal battle, Mountain Valley attorney Todd Normane said in a letter Tuesday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that the company has decided that switching to individual permits is “the most efficient and effective path to project completion.
Individual permits will entail a more detailed, stream-by-stream analysis that the Sierra Club and other environmental groups say has long been lacking for the largest natural gas pipeline ever built in Virginia.
“Another day, another delay,” Joan Walker, of the club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign, said in a written statement about Mountain Valley’s latest plan.
With the project already more than two years behind schedule, Walker said, “I can’t help but wonder when MVP’s backers will quit throwing good money after bad and walk away from this risky bet once and for all.”
Despite its latest change in plans, Mountain Valley said it still expects to have the pipeline completed by the end of this year at a projected cost of about $6 billion, nearly twice the original estimate.
“We believe that an efficient permitting process, including all required public participation, can be completed in a timely manner,” spokeswoman Natalie Cox wrote in an email Tuesday.
Part of that process will be to ask for a new water quality certification from Virginia’s State Water Control Board, which issued such an approval in 2017 amid fierce opposition that continues today.
After granting the certificate — which was needed before the Army Corps could issue its Nationwide Permit 12 — the water board considered revoking it in 2019 but eventually reversed course.
In his letter to FERC, Normane wrote that involvement by the water board and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality “should be minimized” by the work already done on Mountain Valley’s first application.
He also wrote that when Mountain Valley makes an application for individual permits to the Army Corps, the process should involve only minor changes to construction plans that were part of the Nationwide Permit.
So why didn’t the joint venture of five energy companies building the pipeline apply for individual permits from the start?
“They thought it was faster and cheaper at the time, and it appeared the State Water Control Board and DEQ were also favorable,” said Kirk Bowers, co-founder of Mountain Valley Watch, a citizens group that monitors pipeline construction.
Since then, an expedited movement to renewable energy, combined with the new climate agenda of President Joe Biden, has changed the formula, Bowers said.
Last week, Biden appointed FERC commissioner Richard Glick — who has opposed Mountain Valley’s request to resume construction without having all of its required permits in hand — as chair of the panel overseeing the pipeline. That did not bode well for Mountain Valley’s hope that FERC would reconsider a tie vote on its request to bore under the water bodies along the first 77 miles of the 303-mile pipeline, which would have allowed it to begin shipping natural gas
Mountain Valley now intends to withdraw that application, Normane wrote.
In new applications to the Army Corps and FERC, the company will likely request a combination of individual permits and new approvals for boring, which does not require an individual or national permit.
When construction began in 2018, three of the national permits — one for each Army Corps district that the pipeline will cross in West Virginia and Virginia — allowed Mountain Valley to conduct open-cut crossings of nearly 1,000 streams and wetlands.
That method entails temporarily damming streams and rivers, digging a trench along the exposed bottom, burying the 42-inch diameter steel pipe about 6 feet deep and then restoring the water flow.
Mountain Valley completed about half of the crossings before its permits were thrown out in 2018 by the 4th Circuit. The Army Corps reissued its approval in September, only to be sued a second time by environmental groups. In a signal that the permits would likely be reversed a second time, the 4th Circuit issued stays in November.
Normane wrote in his letter to FERC that the lawsuits involving the Nationwide Permit will likely be dismissed as moot.
Although currently in a winter slowdown, Mountain Valley continues stabilization work on a buried pipeline that will pass through the Virginia counties of Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania.
Construction on steep mountainsides has led to muddy runoff, and to hundreds of violations of environmental regulations meant to control erosion and sedimentation.
Although the only key permit Mountain Valley currently lacks is for stream crossings, legal challenges of several others are pending. The seventh such lawsuit was filed Monday, when the Sierra Club and five other environmental groups contested a December decision by FERC to allow work to resume on a 17-mile section that was created as a buffer zone to the Jefferson National Forest.
“Mountain Valley acknowledges that project opponents will likely challenge any regulatory action that achieves project completion,” Normane’s letter stated.
“While we may differ on certain issues, we believe that there is common ground for all stakeholders to agree that at this juncture, the best path forward for environmental protection and affected landowners is for the project to be completed.”
In a statement issued the same day, opponent David Sligh of Wild Virginia said that Mountain Valley “continues to desperately search for a way to push this dangerous and ill-conceived project forward.”
“This latest attempt must fail, because MVP cannot meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act,” he said, “and a more thorough analysis by the Corps and states will prove as much.”
Regulators deadlock over Mountain Valley stream crossings
January 20, 2021
ROANOKE, Va. (AP)— The Mountain Valley Pipeline is dealing with what opponents of the project say is another serious setback.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission deadlocked 2-2 Tuesday on the project’s request to bore under streams and wetlands along the pipeline’s first 77 miles in West Virginia, the Roanoke Timesreported. The tied vote meant the matter was left unresolved.
Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for the joint venture of five energy companies building the pipeline, said FERC could revisit the stream-crossing issue. The developers still plan to have the $6 billion project completed by the end of the year, Cox told the newspaper.
But Gillian Giannetti, a staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the development was a significant setback.
“MVP is in a holding pattern, and there’s no clear end in sight,” she said.
The project is designed to carry natural gas across about 300 miles of West Virginia and Virginia. A separate expansion project called MVP Southgate has been proposed to run from Virginia into North Carolina.
ACT NOW! Virginia DEQ: Comments Sought through March 10, 2021 on Compressor Station for MVP Extension
January 19, 2021 The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comments on a compressor station at the start of a natural gas pipeline in Pittsylvania County.
Mountain Valley Pipeline is seeking a permit to build a 29,000-horsepower facility that would provide the compression needed to move natural gas at high pressure through the pipeline, an extension of its current project.
Called MVP Southgate, the 77-mile line would start at the main pipeline’s terminus near Chatham and transport gas south into North Carolina, ending in Alamance County near Burlington.
Written public comments will be taken through March 10. The Air Pollution Control Board will then decide whether to grant a permit for a facility that would include two gas-fueled combustion turbines, five microturbines and ancillary equipment.
The history of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, from the time it was first proposed to its projected completion, will soon span the terms of three U.S. presidents.
So what impact will the incoming administration of Joe Biden — whose views on climate change and clean energy are the polar opposite of President Donald Trump’s — have on the deeply divisive natural gas pipeline?
It’s unlikely that a single action under Biden’s watch would kill the buried pipeline, much of it already in the ground despite legal action from environmental groups that has delayed construction and inflated its cost to about $6 billion.
But with federal agencies headed by Biden appointees and guided by his climate agenda, pipeline opponents say, the risk of a death by a thousand cuts is more likely.
“The developers behind MVP should be seriously weighing whether this project is still viable in a market and political atmosphere that favors clean energy and climate action,” said Lee Francis, deputy director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.
For full story, please visitThe Roanoke Times
Can the pipeline be stopped? State board ponders its next move on MVP By Laurence Hammack;The Roanoke Times, February 9, 2019
Wading back into what could become a legal quagmire, the State Water Control Board may soon decide whether to revoke its earlier approval for a natural gas pipeline under construction in Southwest Virginia.
The unusual proceeding was initiated in December, when the board voted 4-3 to reconsider a water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
When it first issued the certification in 2017, the board determined there was a reasonable assurance that work on the buried pipeline would not contaminate nearby streams and wetlands. Since then, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has found more than 300 violations of erosion and sediment control measures.
What will happen next seems as clear as the muddy water that frequently flows from construction sites.
If the board were to reverse its earlier position, “it doesn’t necessarily kill the project, although it’s possible that it could,” said Jill Fraley, an associate professor at the Washington and Lee School of Law who specializes in environmental law.
Mountain Valley could address the board’s concerns and apply for a new certification. Or it could turn to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has ultimate authority over the 303-mile pipeline. Or it could sue the water board.
Whatever the next step might be, loss of state certification could further delay a project that — despite earlier regulatory and legal setbacks — is more than halfway completed.
“It can sit in sort of an unknown land for quite a while,” Fraley said.
DEQ delay called ‘unacceptable’
It came as a surprise to most observers when the water board voted Dec. 13 to conduct a hearing to consider the revocation of its certification for the pipeline.
The matter was not listed on the meeting agenda, and DEQ staffers seemed at a loss to explain the move, saying in a brief news release several hours later only that “a process and schedule will be formalized over the next few weeks.”
Nearly two months later, a hearing date and other details have yet to be announced.
As they wait for a hearing to be scheduled, pipeline opponents say the environmental damage caused by clearing land and digging trenches on steep slopes continues.
“This delay allows the destruction to continue unabated and is unacceptable,” the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and five other conservation groups wrote in a Jan. 23 letter to the water board.
“We call on the board to meet as soon as possible to make clear with a vote that DEQ and the Attorney General act immediately to stop the violations and prevent damage that is certain to result from continued construction by MVP.”
DEQ spokeswoman Ann Regn said last week that the department has not clarified the format that a revocation hearing might take. Asked what would happen if the earlier certification were rescinded, Regn wrote in an email that “we cannot offer an opinion.”
Among the water board members, there seems to be a split over the panel’s authority.
In an email obtained through an open records request, Lou Ann Wallace wrote to a friend who had mentioned the matter that she and the other members of the panel lacked the power to stop work on the pipeline.
Wallace, of St. Paul, is the only representative of Southwest Virginia on the board, whose seven members are appointed by the governor.
“The vote does not stop the pipeline (The State Water Control Board does not have that kind of authority), they (MVP) just continue, and we (DEQ-SWCB) have a hearing that could last for another year or so, and all the while the pipeline continues,” Wallace wrote.
And if the board were to revoke its certification, she said, it would lose oversight of Mountain Valley’s work. The certification issued in December 2017 came with 15 conditions, including requirements for additional water sampling, enhanced riparian buffers and an agreement that the company would pledge $5 million toward a complaint resolution process for residents whose drinking water might be impacted.
Oversight would fall to FERC if Mountain Valley lost its state certification, Wallace wrote.
“The public will no longer have their voice, and it will be a game of lawyers……More money, more money…..or this is how I see it.”
Wallace declined to elaborate when reached by phone last week.
Another board member offered a different take on what the loss of a certification could mean for Mountain Valley.
“I think if a project is determined to not be compatible with state water quality standards, it has to be redesigned or abandoned,” Robert Wayland said in an interview with The Roanoke Times. “It couldn’t go forward without a certification.”
Wayland, a former administrator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, agreed with those who say there should be a sense of urgency for the board.
“I was hoping that this would happen with some alacrity,” he said. “It does seem that considering that construction is underway, we should be moving sooner rather than later to resolve this.”
Efforts to reach other board members were unsuccessful.
In response to the newspaper’s request for their written communications about the issue, DEQ withheld email chains from the seven board members that it said fell under the attorney-client exemption to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
The board is represented by the state attorney general’s office, which has also been consulting with DEQ staff.
In his six years on the board, Wayland said, this is the first time that it has considered revoking a certification. “I imagine there’s been a fair amount of legal work done by the attorney general’s office, in consultation with DEQ, to figure out how we would proceed,” he said.
Mountain Valley Pipeline starts the new year with new complications By Laurence Hammack; The Roanoke Times, January 16, 2019
When work began last February with tree-cutting, the plan was to have the Mountain Valley Pipeline completed by now.
Instead, developers of the natural gas pipeline are facing what could be another setback for the project, which has already seen construction delays and cost overruns caused by legal challenges from opponents.
The latest twist came last week, when the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection reopened a public comment period for modifications to a combined state and federal permitting process that Mountain Valley must complete before it can dig trenches through streams and wetlands for its buried pipeline.
With written comments now being taken through March 4, it appears that Mountain Valley will have to wait longer than expected before seeking what’s called a Nationwide Permit 12 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Such a permit — which clears the way for the 42-inch diameter steel pipe to cross through more than 1,000 waterbodies on its 303-mile route through West Virginia and Southwest Virginia — was issued by the Army Corps in December 2017.
But the permit was struck down last year by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Siding with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, the court ruled that the Army Corps lacked the authority to bypass a requirement by West Virginia regulators that pipeline stream crossings must be completed within 72 hours to limit environmental harm.
Admitting that it would take more than a month to burrow through four major rivers in West Virginia, Mountain Valley was forced to suspend work on all stream crossings until it could obtain a new permit.
That process appeared to be simplified after West Virginia’s DEP suggested changes to its regulations that removed the 72-hour requirement for pipeline developers, as long as they used a more environmentally friendly method of stream crossings.
After taking public comments, the agency said in November that it was preparing to send the proposed modifications to the Army Corps and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for review. Once that process was completed, Mountain Valley said at the time, it would apply for a new permit, which it expected to receive in early 2019.
That now appears unlikely, considering that it would probably be several months after the public comment period before a new permit could be granted.
“West Virginia is putting up new roadblocks for MVP by prolonging the modification process by another 4-6 months,” according to a report issued this week by Height Capital Markets, an investment banking firm in Washington, D.C., that is monitoring the project.
Under the new timeline, Height predicted that Mountain Valley will not get a new permit until the third quarter of this year, and that the soonest it would be able to complete construction would be early 2020.
After first saying that it would have the pipeline in operation by the end of 2018, Mountain Valley has since projected a completion date of late this year — a schedule that spokeswomen Natalie Cox stood by in an email Wednesday.
“The MVP project team shares the WVDEP’s interest in protecting the environment and respects the process for a required public comment period,” Cox wrote.
Mountain Valley “has worked closely with state and federal environmental agencies to provide accurate, comprehensive information that would allow for a thorough environmental review of the project and we remain confident that MVP construction plans will protect wetlands and streams and meet water quality standards as required,” her email stated.
A representative for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection did not offer any reasons for why the agency decided to reopen the public comment period. “We have no updates for you at this time,” Terry Fletcher wrote in an email to The Roanoke Times.
According to the Height report, the agency’s change in course came after the 4th Circuit issued a stay in November for a different Nationwide Permit issued for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline similar to Mountain Valley that will pass through Central Virginia.
In that case, the appeals court raised concerns about a temporary dam that the project planned to use on the Greenbrier River in West Virginia to divert the current long enough to dig a trench along the bottom of the exposed river bed and then bury the steel pipe.
Similar to how the state’s 72-hour requirement tripped up Mountain Valley’s permit, the West Virginia DEP had a condition that stated: “No structure authorized by this permit shall impede or prevent fish movement upstream or downstream.”
To address the court’s concerns, according to the Height report, DEP added one word to the condition — making it apply to a “permanent structure” — and restarted the public comment period to include that and several other changes.
Felled trees are shown on July 18 on Peters Mountain just below the ridgeline, which the Appalachian Trail follows. The Mountain Valley Pipeline route through the Jefferson National Forest would take it beneath the Appalachian Trail atop Peters Mountain. HEATHER ROUSSEAU | The Roanoke Times
“While this change may help ACP in the short-run, MVP will suffer as the WVDEP sifts through comments for a second time on the proposed changes,” the report said.
The latest complication comes after Mountain Valley lost another key permit — approval by the U.S. Forest Service for the pipeline to cross through the Jefferson National Forest — and was accused of violating environmental regulations more than 300 times in alawsuit filed last monthby Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.
Another legal battle could be looming, assuming the company gets its Nationwide Permit back from the Army Corps.
The Sierra Club, which argued successfully to have the first approval struck down, now says that individual permits should be required for each stream crossing — a regulatory process that is much more complicated and time-consuming than the blanket approach used by a single Nationwide Permit.
Joan Walker, a senior representative for the club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign, said it is watching the process closely and could file a new legal challenge.
“Our stance is there is no way to safely and legally build these pipelines,” Walker said Wednesday. “This is just another example of West Virginia taking unlawful actions to bend the rules in favor of the pipeline companies.”
Also on Wednesday, a group of pipeline opponents gathered outside Herring’s office in Richmond to ask him to seek an order to immediately stop work on the pipeline, which is crossing six counties in the New River and Roanoke valleys.
Protesters read aloud a Dec. 20 letter to Herring from Tammy Belinsky, a Floyd County attorney who has been active in fighting the pipeline.
Even after repeated failures of erosion control measures, which allowed sediment-laden runoff to enter nearby streams, Mountain Valley is pushing forward — in one case working past 11 p.m. in a foot of snow that covered Fort Lewis Mountain, Belinsky said.
“The company consistently acts in callous disregard of the law even in the face of a lawsuit,” she wrote in a letter on behalf of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. “We request that you act to halt construction while the legal actions for violating the law are litigated.”
A federal agency that green-lighted construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline with a key approval last year has voted 3-2 to uphold its decision.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied a request for a rehearing filed by pipeline opponents in a 172-page order Friday.
Although the ruling has no immediate impact on a construction project that is already well underway, it gives opponents the final decision they needed to pose a direct legal challenge.
When the requests for a rehearing were filed late last year, the commission issued what’s called a tolling order that put the project in a state of legal limbo. By taking more time to consider the requests, the panel allowed construction to proceed while forestalling an appeal of its decision.
In its decision Friday, FERC addressed a key point of dispute: whether there is a public need for the natural gas that will be transported at high pressure through a 303-mile buried pipeline that will run from northern West Virginia through the New River and Roanoke valleys.
“We affirm that the MVP … will provide needed natural gas transportation service to both end-use customers and natural gas producers,” FERC found. Full story HERE
Hearing – March 15, 2018 Summers County to host MVP Public Hearing
What: Mountain Valley Pipeline Public Hearing When: 6:00pm, Thursday, March 15 Where: Memorial Building, Hinton, WV
HINTON — With ongoing litigation over the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) in both state and federal courts, the Summers County Commission says it will hold a public meeting about the projects next month.
The meeting will be on the stress added to the community in the form of infrastructure damages, added load to fire and emergency services, hospitals, health department and other infrastructure.
The meeting will be March 15 at 6 p.m. at the Memorial Building.
“By all accounts, MVP is happening,” said local attorney Elise Keaton who believes the meeting is a way for the community to be proactive.
Keaton, who proposed the public meeting, told the commission that just Wednesday morning, MVP had been granted permission to begin working on a spread in Monroe County and also shared that a zoning dispute between the pipeline entities and the Fayette County Commission has not stopped work in that county.
According to the attorney, the pipeline entities have been using the federal Natural Gas Act to trump local authorities.
As proposed, the meeting will consist of the heads of different local authorities such as the county commission, the sheriff, the Hinton Police chief, the local health department, a representative from the West Virginia Division of Highways and a representative from the pipeline group if they agree.
While damage to local infrastructure by heavy industrial traffic is the most obvious cause for concern to Keaton, she also shared her concerns with an influx of workers.
“There will be an influx of transient workers with a lot of cash,” she said. “Along with the positive benefits of them spending that money in our community in legitimate businesses, there are also some negative aspects as well.”
With the invitation to the pipeline entities, Keaton told the commission that she hopes to learn how negative impacts were addressed in other communities.
“The point is basically, let’s get everybody on the same page of what it looks like,” Keaton said. “Then allow the agencies to have conversations with the public, with the county within their own structures as to what they may or may not do to prepare for it.”
While interested in the meeting itself, the commission also raised the question on legal protections in the case of infrastructure damages and if and how the county will be able to hold pipeline entities responsible.
In the recent past, the commission passed industrial construction ordinances that, while they would not be able to halt construction, equate to the county collecting some permitting fees.
“We need to have some kind of performance bonds so that we know they are going to put the property back in a decent condition,” said Commission President Bill Lightner.
While Keaton questioned whether the pipeline entities would approve of such measures, she told the commission that a public meeting will get the community thinking about what needs to be done in the near future.
“It’s my sense that most of the folks we are going to ask to this table haven’t given a tremendous amount of thought to the negative stuff,” she said. “It’s an educational opportunity to raise the issues.”
The attorney also confirmed that local hotels, resorts and campgrounds have already received calls reserving a large portion of their properties in blocks. Full story HERE
An Unnecessary Threat to the A.T.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is strongly opposed to the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline project, which would cause irreversible damage to the Appalachian Trail.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline, spearheaded by EQT Corporation, is proposed to carry fracked natural gas for over 300 miles through the Virginia and West Virginia countryside, crossing over dozens of water sources, through protected areas and breaching the A.T. corridor. The pipeline will run parallel to the Appalachian Trail for over 90 miles and carve ugly gashes in the landscape that will be seen from 20 miles away.
We have a history of working collaboratively to ensure that the energy needs of the public are met while preserving the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains and the unique hiking experience the A.T. provides. However, the proposed pipeline will needlessly devastate the Appalachian Trail on an unprecedented scale.
Chainsaw crews are cutting trees in Giles County, clearing a path for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. On a ridgetop high above them, protestors are waiting. Since Monday, two self-described pipeline resisters have been sitting on platforms in two trees on Peters Mountain – about 60 feet off the ground and directly in the proposed path of the natural gas pipeline – with hopes of preventing the project from moving forward. “We’re hoping to delay it, at least,” said Ashley Brown, speaking Wednesday by cellphone from one of the trees. “And I think we have the power to stop it.”
Brown is part of a loosely organized group of opponents who have taken a stand where the pipeline would cross the Appalachian Trail in Monroe County, West Virginia. The “tree sit” is being held just across the state line from Giles County, where Mountain Valley recently began cutting trees along a right of way for the 303-mile buried pipeline.
“It’s really beautiful up here,” Brown said. “Peters Mountain is stunning. The thought of a 125-foot right of way being blasted through this is really heartbreaking.”
The spot for a potential standoff with construction crews is on public land in the Jefferson National Forest.
“The Forest Service is reviewing the situation regarding the protesters and working to determine what our response might be to ensure everyone’s safety once Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC is authorized to begin tree clearing,” U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Jessica Rubado wrote in an email. Monroe County Sheriff Ken Hedrick said he has been in touch with Forest Service officials and is not aware of any need at this point for law enforcement to intervene. It remains unclear when, or if, the tree cutters will encounter the protesters.
Before Mountain Valley can cut trees on national forestland where the protesters are staged, the company must receive approval from the Forest Service and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
FERC has already given Mountain Valley permission to cut trees in certain parts of Giles and other counties in the Roanoke and New River valleys through which the pipeline would pass.
Natalie Cox, a Mountain Valley spokeswoman, said tree-cutting began in Giles last Friday, marking the first work on the pipeline in Virginia. Crews began felling trees several weeks ago in West Virginia, where the pipeline would originate before making its way to Pittsylvania County. Although Cox did not respond to questions Wednesday about protesters, she addressed the topic in an email to The Roanoke Times last June. “As a safety precaution, the MVP project team and their contractors will have security personnel available, in conjunction with law enforcement, to manage any potential protest-related activity that may occur onsite during construction,” Cox wrote at the time.
Pipeline resisters are making it clear that they have no plans to move out of the way. Placing humans in trees would make it “impossible to cut the forest without threatening severe harm to those resisting,” a news release from the group stated.
Brown said she is willing to stay in her tree 24 hours a day for as long as it takes. Supporters are providing food and other supplies that are hoisted from the ground by ropes. She also receives a newly charged cellphone periodically to stay in touch with the outside world from a remote post that can only be reached by a long, uphill hike in the woods.
Members of the group were reluctant to talk about how many people are involved in the effort, or to discuss their strategies at length. A second person who, like Brown, is sitting on a platform in a tree did not want to be identified, she said.
Protesters say that at the least, they hope to slow down a tree-cutting operation that Mountain Valley is in a rush to complete. Federal wildlife protections mandate that all trees known to be habitats for threatened bats must be felled by March 31, when the creatures begin to emerge from their hibernation caves. If the trees are not down by then, Mountain Valley would have to wait until mid-November, when the bats hibernate again, before resuming work.
Company officials have said they are on schedule for construction to be completed by the end of this year, even though they still lack approval by Virginia state regulators of a sediment and erosion control plan. That plan would have to be in place before the next stage of work – removing the downed trees and grading the land – could begin.
In a news release and on the Facebook page of Appalachians Against Pipelines, which is not directly involved in the tree-sit operation, the pipeline resisters outlined the reasons for their opposition. “The proposed pipeline would destroy water, mountains, forests and family farms throughout Virginia and West Virginia,” the news release stated.
Critics have said that clearing land and digging ditches for the 42-inch diameter pipeline would dislodge sediment along steep mountain slopes that would then be washed by rainfall into nearby streams, contaminating pristine waters that feed private wells and public water supplies. The karst limestone terrain on Peters Mountain generates fresh drinking water and is particularly susceptible to landslides and sinkholes, the news release said. Opponents also say the pipeline would leave strips of bare land across the landscape that would be visible for miles along the Appalachian Trail.
Supporters say the $3.7 billion project will generate jobs and economic development in Southwest Virginia while meeting a growing demand for natural gas. In a key approval for the pipeline last October, FERC determined there was a public need for the project and that it could be built in a way to minimize environmental harm.
The Forest Service has already granted a right of way for the pipeline to pass through about 3.5 miles of the Jefferson National Forest in Giles, Monroe and Montgomery counties. Plans call for a tunnel to be bored under the Appalachian Trail, along the ridgeline of Peters Mountain, through which the pipeline would pass.
Since the project was announced more than three years ago, opponents have argued that it will damage the environment, increase use of a fossil fuel that is not needed to meet energy demands and trample on the rights of property owners along its route, who are fighting efforts by Mountain Valley to obtain forced easements through their land by using the laws of eminent domain.
But resistance through the regulatory process, the courts and state and local governments has failed to stop the project. For people like Brown, perching in a tree for days – maybe weeks – could be the most effective form of protest. “We’ve fought this long, and this is a necessary escalation in our arc of resistance to this project,” she said.
Sitting for so long on a small wooden platform has given Brown plenty of time to read, admire the scenery and reflect on the reasons she’s there. For moral support, she stays in touch with members of her group and those who back its mission. “It is difficult on your body for sure, sometimes on your mind,” she said. “But because of our network of support … that makes it easier.”
MVP’s contractor ran into environmental problems during construction of other pipelines
A construction company hired to build the Mountain Valley Pipeline worked on three similar projects that were cited by environmental regulators, who found mountainsides turned to muddy slopes and streams clogged with sediment.
The three developers of the natural gas pipelines, two in West Virginia and one in Pennsylvania, failed to comply with plans to control erosion, sediment or industrial waste, according to enforcement actions taken by state regulators.
Precision Pipeline, a Wisconsin company that is a primary contractor for Mountain Valley, played a role in the construction of the earlier projects.
Opponents of the Mountain Valley project fear that the pipeline will bring the same problems to Southwest Virginia, which features mountainous terrain similar to that in West Virginia and Pennsylvania where pipelines were built.
Those worries were heightened by news that the same contractor will be doing the work.
“I have huge concerns about this company being hired,” said Carolyn Reilly, a pipeline opponent who lives along its proposed route in Franklin County.
“There’s already so much distrust with Mountain Valley,” Reilly said. Relying on Precision Pipeline, she said, “just breeds more mistrust.”
Repeated calls and emails to Precision Pipeline were not returned over the past three weeks.
Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for Mountain Valley, said that Precision has been selected to build the Virginia section of the two-state, 303-mile buried pipeline. The company also will do some work on the project in West Virginia, along with two other contractors.
WVDEP Moves to Withdraw Approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline
September 13, 2017
This morning, the West Department of Environmental Protection filed a motion in federal court to invalidate their Section 401 Water Quality Certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The 401 certification is an important permitthat certifies a project will meet West Virginia’s water quality standards.
In ourcommentswe asked WVDEP to reject the application as submitted. We are glad to see that, finally, they agreed to give our concerns in-depth consideration.
Today’s motion by WVDEP comes after months of pressure from WV Rivers and other advocates to challenge the MVP’s 401 certification and reevaluate the pipeline’s impact on water resources. Check out thisarticlein the Charleston Gazette-Mail to learn more.
The MVP 401 certification was originally granted by WVDEP in March of this year. In April, WV Rivers and partnersrequested an appeal hearingon WVDEP’s decision, which was rejectedby the WVDEP Cabinet Secretary. Then Appalachian Mountain Advocates, on behalf of WV Rivers, Sierra Club, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Appalachian Voices, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network, filed alegal petitionin federal court to appeal the approval of the incomplete 401 application. Today’s motion by WVDEP came just one day before WVDEP would have been required to respond to our petition and defend the 401 certification in federal court.
Two local sites will host a painting project called The Blued Trees Symphony, on Wed., July 19th, starting at 11 a.m., at the property of Ashby Berkley about a half mile west of Pence Springs on SR 12/3. The Blued Trees Symphony is a creation of artist Aviva Rahmani of NY, and it was created to protect habitat from the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and other toxic and dangerous pipelines. One site will be by the Greenbrier river in Pence Springs . It includes our Endangered Species Cemetery, the Ponca Tribes sacred corn planting, and the Spiritual Garden and Chapel. That site is the river front to the proposed Greenbrier River Crossing of this perilous 42-inch diameter pipe carrying fracked gas at nearly 1500 psi.! It is estimated that an explosion of a pipeline of this size and pressure will incinerate everything within a half mile!
The second site is located high above the river on a narrow ridge on the Jarrell farm . The MVP would come onto that property and twist down a narrow ridge that averages forty feet wide, meaning that partial mountaintop removal would be used to create the 125-foot wide pipeline right-of-way. The proposed route puts the pipeline directly under high-voltage power lines and within thirty feet of its metal tower. It leaves this property cutting across Clayton Road before heading to the Greenbrier River on a nearly vertical slope through unstable shale and sandstone directly above SR 12/3.
The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline is a for profit corporation and plans are to install 300 plus miles of trench for natural gas pipelines without benefit to local residents. If the project is approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, private property would be seized under a spurious definition of eminent domain that many feel is illegal. The 125 ft. wide swath of habitat along that entire corridor will be lost and left scarred by the mountain leveling and ditching. The pristine waters of this region would likely be compromised. This is a 10-year experiment at the enormous cost of taking our water, land, forests and fields. Additionally, they will be spraying herbicides to keep the broad leaves from growing. At the end of their life, the pipes will be left in the ground to rust. That will cause significant ditching. The pipe lies several feet below the surface, where it will eventually become junk and possibly contain toxic gas residues.
The Blued Trees Symphony is an intercontinental artwork initiated by internationally recognized ecological artist Aviva Rahmani in 2015 to be installed in corridors where natural gas pipeline expansion is planned. Across America, natural gas pipeline corporations have been seizing personal property for private profit under eminent domain law, by claiming their expansions are for public good. The United Nations recognizes a people’s entitlement to cultural aspirations and earth rights as much as financial concerns. The public good the “Blued Trees” protects is clean water, essential to a safe environment. Teams from local communities in several states and Canada have been painting miles of individual trees, in specific patterns, in the proposed corridors. The artist copyrights the artwork, paving the way to contest the takings, save their trees and protect the artwork.
People are engaging in the project to protect the planet. Methane released from natural gas fracking and pipeline transmission has caused almost 1000 reported accidents since 2010, often fatal. In 2016, property damage from such accidents was $700 million. Natural gas is 95% methane. Methane gas causes 30 times the potential global warming potential than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.
On invitation from threatened landowners, Rahmani works with each team to expand the depth and reach of The Blued Trees Symphony. This project has received extensive international recognition and awards. The content evolves in collaboration with local communities, scientists, and copyright, environmental policy, and real estate lawyers. The site-specific painting creates “tree-notes” on the private land facing condemnation for eminent domain takings. Rahmani registers the work as a copyright-protected sonified biogeographic sculptural composition under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), to halt proposed pipeline expansions. Working with activists, The Blued Trees Symphony contributed to halting three pipeline projects in New York State.
Interested parties should join us on Wed., July 19th, at 11 a.m. on Ashby Berkeley’s property on the beautiful Greenbrier River or check our Facebook page HERE
Forest Service allows 11 exceptions to Jefferson Forest Plan for
Mountain Valley Pipeline Augusta Free PressJune 26, 2017
A Draft Record of Decision document released by the United States Forest Service would allow 11 exceptions to the Jefferson National Forest Plan and adopt an amendment that allows old growth forests, rare species and wetlands to be destroyed by the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline.
In addition, by accepting the recently released Final Environmental Impact Statement for the MVP (FEIS) in this draft decision, the USFS has refused to fully analyze the purpose and need of the project and any alternative that would be consistent with the current Jefferson National Forest Plan.
“The USFS has decided to adopt an alternative plan amendment that wasn’t even discussed or analyzed in the DEIS,” said Misty Boos, Director of Wild Virginia. “This deprived the public and other agencies from any consideration or any meaningful analysis.” Full story HERE
Many small pipelines currently cross the Appalachian Trail, but they are nothing like the proposed new Mountain Valley Pipeline that would be built by a consortium led by EQT, a fracking company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The latest edition of AT Journeys, the magazine of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, has a major article on the threat of this pipeline to all national trails.“Cutting to the Core:Setting a Precedent for Pipeline Proposals”by Jack Igelman.
(if you have trouble getting this link to open properly, please right click, copy the link, and paste into a new tab)
Unlike existing pipelines, this one would be visible off and on for almost 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. In Giles County, the pipeline would cut an ugly swath that would be visible from Kelly Knob on the AT, only about 2 miles away. Even worse, the project would create a 500-foot utility corridor through the national forest that would invite co-location of two or three equally large projects immediately adjacent to this monster.
The DEIS for the Mountain Valley Pipeline lists the following cumulative geological impacts from mile marker MP165 to MP 237. This are includes Summers and Monroe Counties, West Virginia, Jefferson National Forest and Giles, Craig and Montgomery Counties, Virginia.
18.104.22.168 Seismicity and Potential for Soil Liquefaction: In the area of the GCSZ (Giles County Seismic Zone) between about MPs 165 to 230, peak ground accelerations approach 14 percent of the force of g, and the potential for a magnitude 5.8 earthquake exists. The potential for soil liquefaction exists mainly in the area of the GCSZ.
22.214.171.124 Slopes and Landslide Potential: the potential for landslides or slope failure could be triggered by seismicity from the GCSZ or from intense and/or prolonged rainfall events. Geology 4-41. the areas that would be crossed within the Jefferson national Forest by the MVP contain slopes greater than 30 percent and the potential for landslides within the Jefferson National Forest would be moderate to high.
126.96.36.199 Jefferson National Forest: Landslides are a dominant geologic process shaping Peters Mountain, Sinking Creek Mountain and Brush Mountain. The largest known landslides in eastern North America are on the south flank of Sinking Creek Mountain where the pipeline route would cross the Jefferson National Forest.
188.8.131.52 Slip-Prone Soils: Soils 4-68 Certain soil types such as shlae or clay soils are more prone to slipping than other soils. Due to this increased potential for slipping, the probability of landslides is increased when constructing through slip prone soils. the Gilpin-Peabody complex, 35 to 70 percent slopes, Carbo, Faywood, Frederick, Nolichucky, Poplimento and Sequoia soils are considered to be slip-prone. The MVP would affect about 17.5 acres of these soils between MP 172 and 196. In Virginia 290.2 of these soils would be affected from approximately MP 196 to 235.
Full story HERE
Concerned citizens were invited to an informational meeting to be held in Summers County about the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline.
The meeting, hosted by West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Summers County Residents Against the Pipeline and Greenbrier River Watershed Association, provided information on the impacts the proposed project may have on local residents and educate citizens on how to make effective comments to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
Attendees can expect to receive information on how the project could impact water, safety and property values and property rights.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a 300-mile long, high-pressure, natural gas pipeline proposed to cut through Wetzel, Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Braxton, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Fayette, Summers, and Monroe counties.
The Department of Environmental Protection must issue three state permits to approve the proposed project, which are all open to public comment. The project is subject to DEP regulation of stormwater runoff, stream preservation permit for its crossing of the Greenbrier River and a water quality permit to allow fill material discharge.
A Department of Environmental Protection public hearing on these permits will be held at 6 p.m. on March 7 at the Memorial Building in Hinton.
Greater Greenbrier Conservation Focus Area
The Greater Greenbrier CFA encompasses the Greenbrier River watershed from the joining of the East and West Forks at Durbin downstream to the confluence with the New River. In the Allegheny Mountains Ecoregion, it includes a globally significant karst landscape surrounded by ridges and valleys of shale and sandstone.Complete PDF of Conservation Focus Area Plan (Draft)
An organization that describes its mission as exposing the true costs of fossil fuels contends that the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline and the separate but similar Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be “climate disasters.”
Courtesy of Hill Studio for Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition This simulation shows what the view of the Mountain Valley Pipeline would look like from Giles High School in Pearisburg.
Oil Change International, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., cites evidence it says debunks the conventional wisdom that natural gas is a cleaner fuel than coal for generating electricity.
The organization released reports Wednesday that suggest the two pipeline projects and associated pollution from methane emissions “would together contribute as much greenhouse gas pollution as 45 coal-fired power plants.” Full story HERE
Are the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline Necessary? An examination of the need for additional pipeline capacity into Virginia and Carolina’sComplete PDFPrepared for Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates
State, feds call for improved pipeline environmental impact statement December 23, 2016 5:30 pm By Duncan Adams email@example.com 981-3324
An alleged CliffNotes version should not pass muster. That appears to be a growing consensus. Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality cited federal law Thursday when adding its voice to many others calling for a more complete draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. The law states, “If a draft statement is so inadequate as to preclude meaningful analysis, the agency shall prepare and circulate a revised draft of the appropriate section.” DEQ advised the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that “a supplemental [draft statement] is needed to address adequate analysis of newly submitted route changes.”
FERC issued the draft environmental impact statement, or DEIS, on Sept. 16. The deadline was Thursday for public comment on the draft, which featured a 781-page statement and appendices that totaled 2,671 pages.Read more.
Proposed pipeline to cut through Appalachian Trail December 15, 2016
The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline would carry natural gas 300 miles from northwest West Virginia to southern Virginia, crossing the Appalachian Trail and clearing trees on its way. Cutting through one of the most celebrated hiking trails in America, the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline threatens wildlife habitat, recreational lands and the health of local Appalachia communities, while setting a terrible precedent of building energy infrastructure through our national forests. Continue
FERC’s Pipeline Statement Full of Errors December 7, 2016
The public comment period on the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline ends December 22. Supporters and opponents are weighing in on the prospect of a 300-mile pipe carrying natural gas through Virginia. But environmental groups are refusing even to comment on the government’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, released in September. They say it’s riddled with errors that misrepresent the effects of the pipeline. Continue
A Modern Day Threat to the AT: The Proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline November 18, 2016
I was driving down my country road recently to go check out hiking trails just south of the Appalachian Trail near Blacksburg, Virginia and enjoy the fall colors. On my way I passed multiple large signs along the sides of the road stating “Entering Blasting Zone” and “Exiting Blasting Zone” – evidence of my community fighting back against the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a proposed $3.5 billion dollar pipeline that would extend 301 miles from West Virginia through northwestern and central Virginia. Continue
WV Supreme Court: No Pipeline Surveys for Private Gain November 2016
West Virginia property owners won an important case at the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on Tuesday when that Court sided
with Appalachian Mountain Advocates attorneys, ruling that the Mountain Valley Pipeline cannot survey for its proposed natural gas pipeline without landowner permission. The Court held that such a survey would constitute an illegal “private taking for private use,” because the proposed pipeline would not benefit West Virginians.
The Supreme Court’s ruling came in a case brought by Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of Bryan and Doris McCurdy. Mountain Valley Pipeline threatened to sue the McCurdys after they refused to allow the pipeline company to survey their homeplace in Monroe County, West Virginia. Appalachian Mountain Advocates helped the McCurdys sue Mountain Valley Pipeline first to keep the company from trespassing on their property. They argued that state law prohibits the pipeline company from setting foot on McCurdy’s property without their permission unless the pipeline company first showed that its pipeline would be for public use.
Mountain Valley Pipeline could not make that showing because no West Virginians will use the gas transported through the pipeline.
Appalachian Mountain Advocates represented the McCurdys when they won in the trial court in 2015. The pipeline company later appealed this decision to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. On November 15, 2016, the West Virginia Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling, and held that the Mountain Valley Pipeline is not for public use by West Virginians.
“This is a great day for private property rights in West Virginia,” said Derek Teaney, Senior Attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, who represented the McCurdys in their case against Mountain Valley Pipeline. “This ruling vindicates the rights of landowners in the path of this ill-advised pipeline and shows that private companies cannot bully West Virginians into allowing them onto their property without their permission.”
The Mountain Valley Pipeline would transport fracked natural gas over 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia to connect to the Transco Pipeline, a mega-pipeline that ships gas to burn in the Southeast. The pipeline would be 42 inches in diameter (by comparison, Keystone XL would have been just 36 inches).
Mountain Valley Pipeline Project Threatens Ecosystems and Landscape of Virginia and West Virginia By Jordan A. Bowman | Nov 18, 2016
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is strongly opposed to the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline project, which would detract significantly from the scenic landscape of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), produce irreversible damage to local ecosystems, and potentially lead to millions of dollars in lost revenue for communities that rely on outdoor recreation-based tourism.
The ATC has a history of working with various industries to ensure that the energy needs of the public are met while simultaneously preserving the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains and the unique hiking experience that the A.T. provides.
However, after studying the woefully inaccurateDraft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline and witnessing the inadequacies of the environmental compliance process initiated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), we feel the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline threatens the A.T. on an unprecedented scale. Continue