Sections of steel pipe of the Mountain Valley Pipeline lie in the sun on wooden blocks

Sections of steel pipe of the Mountain Valley Pipeline lie in the sun on wooden blocks on August 31, 2022 in Bent Mountain, Virginia.

(Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

Critics Blast 'Reckless and Impossible' Bid to Start Operating Mountain Valley Pipeline

"The time to build more dirty and dangerous pipelines is over," said one environmental campaigner.

Environmental defenders on Tuesday ripped the company behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline for asking the federal government—on Earth Day—for permission to start sending methane gas through the 303-mile conduit despite a worsening climate emergency caused largely by burning fossil fuels.

Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC sent a letter Monday to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Acting Secretary Debbie-Anne Reese seeking final permission to begin operation on the MVP next month, even while acknowledging that much of the Virginia portion of the pipeline route remains unfinished and developers have yet to fully comply with safety requirements.

"In a manner typical of its ongoing disrespect for the environment, Mountain Valley Pipeline marked Earth Day by asking FERC for authorization to place its dangerous, unnecessary pipeline into service in late May," said Jessica Sims, the Virginia field coordinator for Appalachian Voices.

"MVP brazenly asks for this authorization while simultaneously notifying FERC that the company has completed less than two-thirds of the project to final restoration and with the mere promise that it will notify the commission when it fully complies with the requirements of a consent decree it entered into with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration last fall," she continued.

"Requesting an in-service decision by May 23 leaves the company very little time to implement the safety measures required by its agreement with PHMSA," Sims added. "There is no rush, other than to satisfy MVP's capacity customers' contracts—a situation of the company's own making. We remain deeply concerned about the construction methods and the safety of communities along the route of MVP."

Russell Chisholm, co-director of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) Coalition—which called MVP's request "reckless and impossible"—said in a statement that "we are watching our worst nightmare unfold in real-time: The reckless MVP is barreling towards completion."

"During construction, MVP has contaminated our water sources, destroyed our streams, and split the earth beneath our homes. Now they want to run methane gas through their degraded pipes and shoddy work," Chisholm added. "The MVP is a glaring human rights violation that is indicative of the widespread failures of our government to act on the climate crisis in service of the fossil fuel industry."

POWHR and activists representing frontline communities affected by the pipeline are set to take part in a May 8 demonstration outside project financier Bank of America's headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Appalachian Voices noted that MVP's request comes days before pipeline developer Equitrans Midstream is set to release its 2024 first-quarter earnings information on April 30.

MVP is set to traverse much of Virginia and West Virginia, with the Southgate extension running into North Carolina. Outgoing U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and other pipeline proponents fought to include expedited construction of the project in the debt ceiling deal negotiated between President Joe Biden and congressional Republicans last year.

On Monday, climate and environmental defenders also petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, challenging FERC's approval of the MVP's planned Southgate extension, contending that the project is so different from original plans that the government's previous assent is now irrelevant.

"Federal, state, and local elected officials have spoken out against this unneeded proposal to ship more methane gas into North Carolina," said Sierra Club senior field organizer Caroline Hansley. "The time to build more dirty and dangerous pipelines is over. After MVP Southgate requested a time extension for a project that it no longer plans to construct, it should be sent back to the drawing board for this newly proposed project."

David Sligh, conservation director at Wild Virginia, said: "Approving the Southgate project is irresponsible. This project will pose the same kinds of threats of damage to the environment and the people along its path as we have seen caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline during the last six years."

"FERC has again failed to protect the public interest, instead favoring a profit-making corporation," Sligh added.

Others renewed warnings about the dangers MVP poses to wildlife.

"The endangered bats, fish, mussels, and plants in this boondoggle's path of destruction deserve to be protected from killing and habitat destruction by a project that never received proper approvals in the first place," Center for Biological Diversity attorney Perrin de Jong said. "Our organization will continue fighting this terrible idea to the bitter end."

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