The unjust, unneeded and destructive Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a fracked-gas pipeline from West Virginia down into Virginia, should be canceled. Project completion is already in jeopardy.
During a recent hearing about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) policy statements about fracked gas certificates, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, defended the MVP. Manchin claimed the pipeline is 95 percent completed, but opponents cite the company’s own reports, which indicate “final restoration of the pipeline right-of-way is now about 55% complete.”
Moreover, two recent federal court rulings have thrown out key MVP permits, as three more federal agencies have been sent back to the drawing board after failing to analyze the MVP’s harmful impacts. The court ruled that the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management inadequately considered actual sedimentation and erosion impacts, prematurely authorized stream crossings, and failed to comply with a Forest Service rule. The court also ruled that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service failed to make a current assessment of the endangered Roanoke Logperch and candy darter, and failed to account for climate change impacts. Meanwhile, another permit that is needed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot be issued at this time because they committed to withhold the permit without a valid Endangered Species Act biological opinion that had been vacated by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The FERC certificate for the MVP expires this year. It has already been extended once, and FERC may not grant a second extension. FERC will likely consider that the MVP has not demonstrated the project can be completed in compliance with public safety and public health requirements, key permits are now missing, and new information undeniably shows that the project is not in the public interest.
The MVP has exploited the communities and landowners along the route. Project cancellation could enable impacted landowners to get their land back. Their land was taken from them, in large part, through an unfair use of eminent domain for private gain. The trauma of having their property seized would finally be over, and their property values would go back to pre-pipeline levels, without a dangerous 42-inch pipeline transporting fracked gas through it.
Most of our fellow citizens along the MVP are low- and middle-income earners, and communities of color, low-income communities, elderly residents and Indigenous sites would be most impacted and overburdened by the environmental harms and risks from this dirty pipeline. They face possible health impacts through air and water pollution, along with property damage. Buying their homes and properties may have been the biggest investment of their lives, and the MVP may have made that their biggest loss. Project cancellation can begin to right these wrongs.
The MVP was designed in 2014 to transport fracked gas, a now-outdated resource. We don’t need fracked gas to produce energy. Our energy needs would be better served by renewable energy, including solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric energy. Once renewable energy systems are in place, except for minor maintenance costs, the energy they produce is free, robust and virtually inexhaustible, with no greenhouse gas emissions or pollutant discharges.
MVP cancellation would significantly eliminate other negative project impacts as well.
The threat to public safety would be reduced. The MVP traverses landslide- and earthquake-prone terrain. Landslide risk was assessed by an MVP hired consultant — in an inherent conflict of interest that could understate the risk. FERC cited the assessment and determined that the risk was acceptable. Nevertheless, one MVP landslide has already forced two families to evacuate their homes. Another landslide moved the pipeline, which was already in the ground. Many other landslides have occurred along the route as well.
Questionable MVP pipe handling may have also subjected the pipes to increased corrosion risk, which could lead to pipe failure, and ultimately a catastrophic explosion.
Furthermore, the MVP is a public health risk. A number of toxins, including radioactive substances, are carried in the gas stream. Leaks and intentional discharges from fracked gas transmission lines are significant. Research indicates the MVP would likely leak and emit more than 6 million cubic feet of fracked gas and toxins per day. If the MVP is completed, these toxins would be released in large volumes that would pollute the air, and could pollute the soil and drinking water in communities along the line.
Further damage to our streams, wetlands, fisheries and wildlife from the hundreds of pipeline crossings yet to be completed, would be eliminated if the pipeline is canceled. The MVP has already racked up hundreds of pollution violations and paid millions in fines.
Climate-killing greenhouse gas emissions from the MVP, and downstream combustion of that gas, would be eliminated if the pipeline is canceled. The U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment, and the report from the Sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report were both issued after FERC’s environmental impact statement and approval of the MVP. These reports clearly indicate that we have already significantly and negatively altered the climate, and further greenhouse gas emissions would make things much worse in the future.
Climate change is our biggest threat ever. We know we can’t avert the worst of the climate crisis unless we stop throwing fuel on the fire. Greenhouse gas emissions from the MVP would pack even more explosives into the climate time bomb, further impacting a climate that may not be able to sustain us in the future. Once fully operational, the MVP would emit about the same amount of emissions equivalent to 26 U.S. coal plants or 19 million passenger vehicles per year.
I am calling on the Mountain Valley Pipeline owners and investors to end this nightmare that impacted property owners have endured for so long, and stop this unjust, unneeded and destructive project. Investors have disclosed their million-dollar losses relating to the pipeline and are reevaluating its investment following the string of legal losses for the embattled pipeline. People of good faith should come together to urge the Mountain Valley Pipeline to do the same. We have seen the great work of people on the ground who have called out the injustices to their communities and have documented and reported environmental issues related to the construction. Stiff grassroots opposition will not only stop the imminent threat to public safety and health, but also the pollution of our environment and the permanent destruction of our climate.