Thirty groups in Virginia, West Virginia call for review of proposed gas pipelines
Thirty organizations in Virginia and West Virginia have joined forces to call on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to conduct a combined, comprehensive review of all four of the major natural gas pipeline projects currently proposed for the Blue Ridge and Central Appalachian region. Many of the groups are based in counties where the Atlantic Coast Pipeline or Mountain Valley Pipeline would cut through family farms and national forest land, traverse steep slopes and dozens of streams.
In a letter sent to FERC today, the groups said the agency must do a single review, called a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, in order to evaluate the true need for each of the pipelines in relation to the others, as well as to assess the direct, indirect and cumulative environmental and social impacts of all the pipelines. Legal experts say that, under the National Environmental Policy Act, FERC is required to do a single, comprehensive review of all related projects in a single geographic region.
Joining landowner and environmental advocates in a tele-press conference this morning were Virginia state Sen. John Edwards and Del. Joseph Yost, whose districts include sections of the proposed route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Both have stated to FERC their opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Senator John Edwards (D), 21st District: “The many environmental impacts to this region include: in the event of an earthquake (which is likely due to a fault line in Giles), a 42 inch high pressure natural gas pipeline would likely rupture, causing a large explosion and extensive damage. There is also risk to numerous pure aquifers, and the mountainous terrain and limestone topography make building such a pipeline unsuitable. There are also many threatened and endangered species and other environmental and safety issues that need extensive and careful study.“
Delegate Joseph Yost (R), 12th District (in his letter to FERC): “Balancing the need for energy infrastructure while also respecting an individual’s property rights and safeguarding our natural resources for future enjoyment is no easy task. However, I again would like to state my opposition to the proposed MVP project. It is my hope you will examine this project closely over the coming months taking these and many other considerations under advisement and determine the same.”
On Friday, 16 groups filed a formal protest of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in which they said Dominion Transmission, Inc., and Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, had presented flawed and exaggerated information about the need for the pipeline, while ignoring the impacts to the environment, landowners, communities and the general public. The groups contend that FERC must evaluate the economic and environmental benefits of cleaner sources of energy that development of the pipeline would displace.
Also on Friday, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC filed its permit application with FERC to build a massive natural gas pipeline spanning 301 miles from the fracking fields of West Virginia, over the mountains and into Virginia. It follows on the heels of the application filed in September for the 564-mile, $5.1 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would also carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia into North Carolina.
Both projects have sparked intense opposition among local, state and regional organizations representing tens of thousands of people, including landowners whose property or communities would be affected, forest and wildlife conservationists, land preservationists, outdoor recreationists, climate activists and others. Preserve Craig sent a brief to FERC requesting a meeting to discuss the benefits of regional review of the Marcellus Shale natural gas pipelines.
New England is facing a similar situation of fielding proposals for multiple natural gas pipelines. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey recently asked FERC to conduct a combined review of those projects “to avoid piecemeal review, utilize a common analysis of regional gas demand, and compare each project’s impacts and benefits.”
Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson: “The least we, as unwilling citizens of a directly impacted community, deserve is the assurance that the federal regulatory process responsible for approving and siting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is fair, thorough and accurate. We believe FERC’s current plan to review the ACP in isolation from the three other high-pressure, large-diameter pipelines proposed for our region is negligent in light of the ACP’s threats to our property rights, economy, health and safety.”
Joe Lovett, Appalachian Mountain Advocates: “FERC may not allow Dominion to build the ACP until it understands whether the pipeline is necessary. The FERC certificate may not be issued until FERC carefully analyzes whether there is sufficient capacity in existing infrastructure to transport the gas to market. Dominion has not come close to showing FERC that there is such need.”
Tammy Belinsky, Preserve Craig: “Given the surge in pipeline proposals within this region, the reliance on project-by-project environmental review has become increasingly ineffective and inadequate. FERC and the Forest Service staff’s review is complicated by duplicative and potentially inconsistent information regarding baseline conditions, cumulative impacts, connected actions, indirect effects, and mitigation protocols provided by the applicants and stakeholders.”