Reviews | The Mountain Valley pipeline can never be completed – it’s time for everyone to admit it

The first tree should never have been cut down, the ground never disturbed. This was held by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit February 3 decision on Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC. Every act of resistance to the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) in the past seven years is validated by this decision.

The 303-mile fractured gas transmission line through West Virginia and Virginia is only about 55% complete, according to MVP’s most recent construction report deposit. The muddy runoff into our construction rivers through forests, farms and fields far exceeds what MVP claimed it would be, and the steepest grades and most sensitive water crossings on the road n have not yet been attempted.

No agency or person should allow MVP to destroy more land and pollute more water while pretending the pipeline will ever become operational.

No agency or person should allow MVP to destroy more land and pollute more water while pretending the pipeline will ever become operational.

Mountain Valley Pipeline is on life support. If MVP, LLC, refuses to admit its own loss and cancel the project, federal agencies must uphold the Biden administration’s commitments to sound science, environmental justice, and climate action. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has the ultimate duty to deny any further extension of MVP’s Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.

After the Fourth Circuit’s decision, MVP attempted to reassure investors that “the concerns associated with MVP’s biological notice can be resolved.” But MVP cannot respond satisfactorily to the Court’s concerns. This is because the Court found that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) failed to adequately assess the status of endangered species in the pipeline disturbance area. Now that the trees are cut down and the waterways degraded, it is almost impossible for FWS to retroactively assess the environmental baseline. The Court also ruled that the analysis of endangered species must take climate change into account. The FERC certificate and every federal ruling are based on the FWS Biological Opinion and the Incidental Take Statement that the Fourth Circuit just rejected for the second time in three years.

But that’s not MVP’s only challenge. MVP is also blocked by the same court from January 24 denial of permit drive through Jefferson National Forest. The Forest Service attempted to surgically alter its forestry plan to allow MVP to harm this precious public landscape. But the Forest Service’s own planning rule requires that any amendment must maintain or restore — not degrade — the forest.

Even if MVP magically found a way to reorient around the National Forest, there would be no reasonable completion date in sight. The company’s own management has acknowledged that the “timing specter” continues to loom. Meanwhile, climate chaos escalates and the grassroots movement to end the age of fossil fuels grows.

Our Appalachian communities have suffered enough. Construction of the MVP began in 2018 and our hunting, foraging and fishing grounds, our farms, our orchards, our springs and wells, our ancient cemeteries and our lives have been transformed for four years. Now, in 2022, the lack of valid federal permits means that digging trenches for a pipe bomb alongside our schools, churches, nursing homes, community centers and swimming pools should never have happened.

MVP was not and is not needed. Its sole purpose: to enrich the builders of gas pipelines who have contracted to buy gas. But even that failed due to lack of market interest. Nearly seven years after filing its initial application with FERC, MVP is still struggling to find customers for its capacity.

Although we cannot undo the initial plunder of our land and water, it is not too late to stop further damage. Here’s what to do: The Corps must deny the pending water permit application. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must suspend MVP’s building permit. More importantly, FERC must deny an extension of the MVP certificate, which expires in October.

MVP is eligible for a FERC certificate extension only if the project’s initial environmental review still accurately captures current environmental impacts. But this is not the case. The 2017 FERC exam is out of date. FERC has four years of evidence to show that the project’s effects on water quality, endangered species and forests are far more severe than originally anticipated. And the court has just rejected the analyzes of the impacts of MVP on two endangered fish.

Additionally, in 2017, FERC did not fully assess the project’s climate impacts. President Biden’s executive orders now require a whole-of-government approach to addressing the climate crisis, which building and operating the MVP would worsen.

For more than seven years, policymakers have manipulated the law to accommodate the pipeline. The Fourth Circuit Court pinned down the laws MVP evaded. MVP had previously evaded these laws because MVP could not comply with them no matter how many more years they were allowed to try. It’s time to remove the life support pipeline. And it’s up to FERC to pull the plug.

MVP has banked on its capacity for intimidation, seizing private property, clearcutting forests and digging trenches even in the absence of several regulatory permits. Regulators must stop pandering to this reckless and incompetent LLC and demand that MVP rigorously and properly restore the pipeline corridor.

About Keith Tatum

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