Maury Johnson

Maury Johnson speaks at a March 30 press conference at the U.S. Capitol with environmental justice leaders to pressure President Biden to live up to his campaign promises and show widespread opposition to the GOP's attempts to fast track more fossil fuel projects.

(Photo: Bora Chung, Survival Media Agency)

Despite Environmental Justice Pledge, Biden Disrespects People Like Me in Path of Fracked Gas Pipeline

Secretary Granholm's letter cheerleading the Mountain Valley Pipeline came the day after she promised to meet with me, a landowner impacted by Senator Manchin's pet fossil fuel project.

I am saddened by the depths that proponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) will go to advance a false narrative and spread inaccuracies. This time it is Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm who on Friday, April 21, 2023 wrote a cheerleader's letter rooting for the MVP, Joe Manchin's pet project. It is very ironic and even a bit disturbing that she wrote this letter one day after she appeared before the Senate Energy Committee and the very next day after she told me personally that she (or her staff) would meet with me in the next week or two.

I am currently in Washington, D.C. where I attended the Senate Energy Committee meeting on Thursday, April 20. I spoke to the secretary at the conclusion of the hearing and asked her to meet with me. She indicated that a meeting could be arranged this week or next. But in what appears to be a hastily prepared letter—even possibly dictated by the fossil fuel lobby—she expressed her desire to exert political pressure on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and other federal agencies. She apparently decided that she did not need to talk to those most affected by the project or even entertain an opposing viewpoint. Like many agencies, she did not talk with or listen to any affected landowner and totally continued to perpetrate the social, racial, and environmental injustice concerns that President Joe Biden had just a few hours before expressed that his administration would take seriously.

You can't have it both ways: You either listen to impacted communities or you don't. This letter appears to be written to appease Senator Manchin and others in the MVP camp. It is also strange that this letter was filed just before Equitrans Midstream Corporation—the company behind the pipeline—had its shareholder meeting on Monday morning, April 24.

You can't have it both ways: You either listen to impacted communities or you don't.

The MVP project is not necessary to support the nation's energy security and energy supply. Just because they say it is so, doesn't make it true. It actually would do just the opposite. It would lock us into decades of methane and carbon pollution that the nation or the planet can ill afford. As the lead federal agency for the project under the FAST-41 framework, I feel that the FERC has failed in its regulatory duty to be an independent agency by submitting to inappropriate industry-generated political pressure similar to that which is reflected in Secretary Granholm's letter. It appears to me to be an attempt to intimidate the commission.

In a letter I just completed and sent to the FERC, I requested that they do their job and follow their charter as an independent agency: to evaluate all projects on their merits and with regard to their impact on climate change and to resist the political pressure placed on them by politicians like Senator Manchin, who would build more pipelines, mine more coal, drill for more oil and gas, despite the fact that it would put us on a fast track to total environment destruction.

I do not believe that the MVP project would help ensure the "reliable delivery of energy that heats homes and businesses, and powers electric generators that support the reliability of the electric system," despite what Secretary Granholm may state in her letter. This is a 42-inch diameter interstate transmission line which is most likely slated to transmit gas for export. Infrastructure such as MVP destroys communities, pollutes water, harms our environment, and has no role to play in the clean energy transition. Unproven technologies such as "carbon capture" facilitated by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act are not something you should rely on to fix our climate emergency. With the severe problems we are facing, these proposals are too little, too late.

No new pipeline infrastructure is needed. The rapid growth of hydrogen as an emissions-free fuel is also a misnomer, especially if the hydrogen is produced as a byproduct of more drilling. The transport of carbon dioxide through a pipeline might be the most dangerous thing we could ever do. I believe Secretary Granholm herself knows better than what she stated in her April 21 letter.

As extreme weather events continue to put strain on the U.S. energy system, we must quickly transition to green energy and continuing to build pipelines cannot be part of that transition. The MVP project would, if completed, lock us into decades of climate-busting greenhouse gas emissions as it destroys communities and property across its entire route.

The MVP project would, if completed, lock us into decades of climate-busting greenhouse gas emissions as it destroys communities and property across its entire route.

Now here is the hardly disguised, hard-hitting core message embedded in a (not so funny part of) Granholm's letter: "While the Department takes no position regarding the outstanding agency actions required under federal or state law related to the construction of the MVP project, nor on any pending litigation, we submit the view that the MVP project will enhance the Nation's critical infrastructure for energy and national security. We appreciate the Commission's prompt actions to fulfill its regulatory responsibilities regarding natural gas infrastructure under the Natural Gas Act, and the interagency coordination it provides as the lead federal agency for the project under FAST-41. We look forward to continuing to work with FERC to ensure consumers have access to reliable, cost-effective, and clean energy."

That was a very strong armed tactic, if I ever saw one. I believe it is totally inappropriate to write such a letter, especially when just one day before she said she would meet with me and the president issued the Executive Order Revitalizing Our Nation's Commitment to Environmental Justice for All on the morning before she wrote her letter to the FERC. The president said all executive branch agencies have a duty to pursue environmental justice. Apparently Secretary Granholm did not get the message.

Meanwhile, I am still in Washington D.C. waiting to hear from Secretary Granholm. Personally, I don't understand her rush to write her letter cheering for the MVP. It is also typical of how most government leaders have treated landowners and other citizens in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

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