VIRGINIA (WFXR) — The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project has dominated environmental discussions in Virginia as it has been subject to multiple lawsuits over the years. New court case decisions have shed light on future plans for the project.
The MVP is a 303-mile multi-billion dollar natural gas pipeline project, led by Equitrans Midstream Corporation, that has been under construction since 2018.
The pipeline runs from northwestern West Virginia through southern Virginia. Thousands of people have been, and will continue to be, impacted by the continuation of the project.
MVP supporters believe it is critical for energy security and reliability to provide natural gas to homes across the Virginias. Many against the pipeline believe the project hurts the environment and promotes harmful practices, such as fracking, when money could otherwise be reallocated to carbon-free energy practices.
Legal challenges from the opposition to the pipeline has paused construction plans multiple times in the past. Environmental organizations, such as Sierra Club, Wild Virginia, Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and many more, have taken their concerns to court. These organizations believe the pipeline would violate water quality standards in both Virginia and West Virginia.
On March 29, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied the Sierra Clubs’ lawsuit against Virginia’s State Water Control Board. The decision does not allow any new construction to be done currently, as the MVP will still need approval from multiple federal organizations.
“We are pleased by the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to uphold Mountain Valley’s Virginia 401 Water Quality Certification, which is, yet again, one additional step forward in completing this critical infrastructure project,” said Natalie Cox, spokesperson for the MVP.
But, on April 3, the same federal appeals court denied a water permit needed to continue construction in West Virginia, once again bringing the project to a halt. The MVP will have to reapply for the certification. It would still need federal approvals from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.
Even though construction is said to be 90% complete, the discussion is far from over. Whether the pipeline will ever provide natural gas to areas across Virginia and West Virginia remains uncertain.
Environmental activists share the possible negative impacts the pipeline could have on ecosystems in the Virginias. Wild Virginia shared a report that outlines the nearly 1,500 pollution incidents MVP has contributed to since the start of the project.
Hundreds of these “pollution incidents” refer to measurable sediment deposits in waterbodies, affecting rivers, streams, and possibly drinking water. Wild Virginia gathered its information from inspection reports from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
Wild Virginia shared various instances in which homeowners’ yards became mud deposits due to construction, specifically in Giles County and Franklin County. In some of these instances, mud extended through the walls of the house.
Activists have also raised concerns over the government purchasing private property through eminent domain, shifting the power dynamic in small-town communities. They contend many pipelines disproportionately impact low-income communities, and MVP is not an exception.
“This has led to major environmental degradation and serious public health concerns for the over 200,000 people in southwest Virginia who depend on these resources for their livelihoods, drinking water, and well-being,” said Patrick Grenter, Director of the Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign.
But this is not the first time pipelines have sparked heated discussion in communities across Virginia. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was canceled in July of 2020, but many environmental activists were outraged by the damage it had already caused through the construction process.
“Mountain Valley, the lead partner behind the MVP scheme, should finally abandon this project and begin all possible efforts to heal the wounds they’ve already inflicted on our land, water, and people,” said David Sigh, Conservation Director for Wild Virginia.
On May 15, the USDA Forest Service issued a Record of Decision signed by USDA Undersecretary Wilkes to allow construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to continue 3.5 miles through the Jefferson National Forest.
While environmental activists continue to push for carbon-free energy initiatives, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports natural gas pipelines remain the leading supplier of energy in the country.
Most recently, the MVP has been written into President Biden and House Speaker McCarthy’s debt ceiling deal. Senators began to weigh in on the implications of the negotiation. While the debt ceiling agreement and fiscal responsibility act have yet to pass through Congress, the outcome could expedite the completion of the project.
Equitrans Midstream Corporation (ETRN) shares that their company holds itself to high standards; “As part of our commitment to local communities, ETRN has dedicated resources to develop and implement damage prevention initiatives focused on maintaining the integrity of its pipelines and the safety of individuals working in proximity to ETRN’s pipelines and facilities.”