ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – Local environmental groups gathered Monday afternoon at the South Roanoke County Library in response to Mountain Valley Pipeline’s latest announcement to voluntarily discontinue certain construction activities along several areas of the pipeline route due to a violation of the Endangered Species Act.
“The four species we’re focusing on: the Roanoke Logperch, the Candy Darter, the Indian Bat, and the Northern Long Ear Bat. Now MVP has already cut pretty much all the trees in bat territory, but when you have construction, we’re talking loud noise and exhaust, in proximity to bat habitat, you’re still threatening them,” says Dan Crawford, chairman of the Roanoke Group of the Sierra Club.
On Thursday, Mountain Valley sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) further explaining their suspension on construction activities on over 70 miles of the pipeline due to concerns over habitats for locally endangered bats and fish. The halted construction includes watersheds in counties of Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin, and Pittsylvania.
“MVP’s voluntary suspension is not a matter of miles, it is a matter of doing the right thing,” spokeswoman Natalie Cox said in an email.
This announcement from Mountain Valley comes after two protesters were arrested last Wednesday after locking themselves up to onsite equipment in Franklin County.
As a response to MVP’s recent decision, members from local organizations like Roanoke Group Sierra Club and Preserve Salem insist on an immediate cessation of all “land-disturbing construction” on the Mountain Valley Pipeline unless they are installing soil and erosion controls to help with sedimentation issues.
“I don’t think that we would benefit to a great extent in spending time trying to communicate with each other because they’re committed to a direction and we’re committed to another. And they’re radically different. Renewable energy for us, extended fossil fuels for them,” says Crawford.
When asked if MVP is open to listening to the viewpoints of environmental activist organizations, spokesperson Natalie Cox said:
“While we appreciate the support we have received across the region, we understand that the efforts and progress we have made to plan and design a pipeline route that will protect cultural and historic resources, as well as preserve sensitive and environmental species, may not satisfy those opposed to underground, natural gas infrastructure. We respect the opinions of those who are opposed to the MVP project and to the fossil fuel industry at-large; however, more importantly, we want to ensure everyone’s safety throughout the various phases of the construction process, as well as throughout the pipeline’s in-service operations.”
MVP also states that they expect to continue with construction in areas where permitted along the 303-mile pipeline route and continue to target a mid-2020 completion date for their over $4.5 billion dollar project.
As of April 2019, MVP’s total project work was more than 80% complete.