Could the MVP Southgate project be resurrected?
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has been a focal point for several weeks now. The Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August, included measures to address climate change, environmental injustice, invests in clean energy, and much more. This historic bill was couched on a tie breaking vote from Senator Manchin. After the vote, it was discovered that Manchin’s vote came with strings attached. Manchin has been pushing the Mountain Valley Pipeline project from his home state of Virginia, which is not surprising considering the Oil and Gas industry has contributed $898,467 to his campaign since 2017. Next Era, a major stakeholder in the MVP project, has contributed $59,350 alone.
In exchange for his vote on the Inflation Reduction Act, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer agreed to support a bill yet to fast-track permitting processes for fossil fuel projects. Democratic leadership and the Biden administration have both expressed support for Manchin’s bill in exchange for his vote.
No one has seen the official legislation yet, but the one-page summary of the deal that was leaked is alarming. The bill guts bedrock environmental protections, endangers public health, fast-tracks fossil fuels, and specifically names Mountain Valley Pipeline as a priority project to complete. While this bill is being marketed as a boom to renewable energy, this summary explicitly includes prioritization for fossil fuel projects.
We continue to support the fight against the MVP mainline with our partners in Virginia and West Virginia. As we focus our energy on stopping that project, we are in waiting for any permit proposals in North Carolina to resurrect the MVP Southgate extension. The 401 water crossing permit was denied outright for the third time in November of 2020. Among many other conditions, one reason for denial was the likelihood that the mainline would never be completed, resulting in the Southgate extension being “a pipeline to nowhere.”
Last week, over a thousand people gathered to oppose this deal. Many of us met with federal representatives individually. We learned that many Democratic members had no idea about Manchin’s side deal until the votes were cast. Democratic members are pushing House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi to exclude the Permitting Reform Act from the must-pass Government Spending bill, and instead introduce it as a stand alone bill.
Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate Extension: proposed pipeline to transport fracked gas through Alamance and Rockingham counties
The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is a 303 mile pipeline being constructed to carry fracked gas from West Virginia into Virginia. MVP is working to get approval for an extension of that pipeline that will take it an additional 70 miles from southern Virginia into central North Carolina. The addition, the MVP Southgate project, will cut through Rockingham and Alamance counties, ending at a point just south and east of Graham, below 1-85-40.
What can YOU do right now?
Contact your Federal Representative and urge them to block Manchin’s permitting reform bill and stand with impacting communities who are fighting these dangerous fossil fuel projects.
See this list of talking points, outreach materials, and action steps from our partners at POHWR, Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, and 7 Directions of Service. To send an email form to your Representatives, see the action alert below from our partners at Southern Environmental Law Center.
MVP Southgate Permits
- In North Carolina, there has been no reapplication for the NC 401 permit or the stream crossings permit, which is necessary to move forward. The permit was denied outright for a second time in April of 2021 by NCDEQ.
- The MVP Southgate project has not yet applied for the US Army Corps of Engineers 404 application, which is the federal permit to cross waterbodies and is necessary to move forward.
- The Virginia Air Control Board denied the permit for the Air Compressor station in Pittsylvania County, VA in December 2021. MVP Southgate has sued the Virginia Air Control Board and is petitioning the 4th circuit courts to review the decision.
We have heard from landowners that they have been contacted by their attorneys and have been pressured to settle and sign easements again. This is to confirm that no permits in NC have been obtained, and the project will not be able to move forward until then. Because the permits have not even been reapplied for, this could still take a very long time. but we’ll be ready for any actions on the part of MVP.
MVP Mainline updates
On January 25, the 4th Circuit published a decision vacating the Forest Service and BLM authorizations allowing Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross the Jefferson National Forest. The court agreed with the plaintiffs (Sierra Club and Appalachian Mountain Advocates) arguments that the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management inadequately considered MVP’s sedimentation and erosion impacts, prematurely allowed MVP to use the conventional bore method for stream crossings, and failed to comply with the Forest Service’s 2012 Planning Rule.
US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has not yet issued the 404 permit for the mainline. Sierra Club has organized a a call in action from now through Jan. 31 to USACE Secretary to ask for him to deny the permit.
Earlier Posts and Background Info
The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is a 303 mile pipeline being constructed to carry fracked gas from West Virginia into Virginia. MVP is working to get approval for an extension of that pipeline, MVP Southgate, that will take it an additional 70 miles from southern Virginia into central North Carolina. If approved, the MVP Southgate project will cut through Rockingham and Alamance counties, ending at a point just south and east of Graham, below 1-85-40.
Haw River Assembly first learned about MVP Southgate in April of 2018. At this point, we held community meetings and sent mailings to every home along the proposed route. Neighbors started talking to each other and refusing access to surveys for the project. As a coalition of landowners, impacted community members, and environmentalists, we presented and gave public comment at every town and county commissioners meeting along the proposed route. Through this work, every town and county was made aware of their rights and heard the voices of their communities saying “we don’t want or need this project.” Alamance county unanimously signed a resolution to oppose the project, as did several towns along the route.
In early August of 2020, NC Department of Environmental Quality denied the 401 permit, which is the permit necessary to cross streams.
The permit was denied outright, meaning there were no conditions under which MVP Southgate could make corrections and resubmit. NCDEQ’s denial letter focused predominantly on the failures of the MVP mainline.
“Division staff have determined the Southgate project’s sole utility and purpose is tied to and wholly relies on the completion of the entire Mainline project,” DEQ’s letter reads. “The uncertainty of the MVP Mainline Project’s completion presents a critical risk to the achievability of the fundamental purpose of MVP Southgate,” it continued.
Most of the environmental harm would occur during construction, the division wrote, adding that it “finds it is inappropriate to unnecessarily risk impacting high-quality waters and drinking water supplies of North Carolinians.”
MVP Southgate has appealed the denial decision.Theoretically, if MVP mainline gets their permits and legal challenges resolved, MVP Southgate could reapply. The mainline is currently under a stop work order and faces several legal challenges. Additionally, this denial of the Southgate permit makes the mainline permit less profitable with an uncertainty of delivery and increased capacity.
This uncertainty around the worthiness of investing vast sums of money in a project that suffers from progressively decreasing certainty of success (and profit returns) is what killed the ACP. It can kill the MVP too.
On October 9, Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) was given another two years to complete a natural gas pipeline already marked by six years of community opposition, environmental damage, legal fights and delays. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also lifted a stop- work order for all but a 25-mile segment of the interstate transmission line that includes the Jefferson National Forest and adjacent land. (Roanoke Times)
On October 16, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals imposed a temporary stay on MVP’s Nationwide 12 permits that had been requested by the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices and other environmental groups battling the 303-mile mainline project through West Virginia and Virginia.
“It’s a setback for the pipeline, which had been given the go-ahead last week to resume construction after a months long delay by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as well as receiving the key permits it needed. One of those permits, the so-called Nationwide 12 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, is at issue in this temporary stay while a full stay is considered.” (Pittsburgh Business News)
A Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) regarding MVP’s permit to cross national forests was recently posted in the Federal Register, initiating a 45 day comment period, ending November 9. The SEIS is used to determine whether or not a project, in this case the Mountain Valley Pipeline, can be permitted to cross a national forest.
There have been multiple publications citing the lack of need for additional pipeline infrastructure and fossil fuel sources in North Carolina and across the southeast. North Carolina is one of the leading states in solar power, and Gov. Cooper’s Executive Order 80 commits us to lowering Greenhouse Gas emissions to 40% below 2005 levels. New pipeline projects do not fall within that commitment.
Federal judge upholds ban on process for permitting pipelines, including Mountain Valley
Environmentalists have argued for years that the Army Corps’ process, called a Nationwide Permit 12, takes a “blanket approach” that does not adequately assess a pipeline’s crossing of each stream or wetland in its path.
“Constructing pipelines through rivers, streams and wetlands without analyzing the impacts on imperiled species is unconscionable, and we will continue to fight to protect vulnerable species, our waters and the climate from such reckless development,” Jared Margolis, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.
How this Pipeline Poses Threats to our Environment and Communities
The extractive process of fracking is destructive to land, air, and water quality in many ways, but the transport of the fracked gas also poses threats to downstream communities. In the construction process of pipelines, easements must be cleared of all trees and plants, exposing the disturbed land to erosion and causing sedimentation in streams. In-stream sedimentation not only carries nutrients and chemicals into the water, but the sediments themselves drown sensitive wildlife habitats in nearby streams. The MVP Southgate proposed route must cross several streams and tributaries. In order to do this, ditch lines are often blasted through rock and streams to lay the pipe. Streams are then dammed up and rerouted during trench construction, or drills cut a route under the stream using hydraulic motors and jet nozzles. Both of these processes destroy stream habitat. Potential leaks in pipes pose ongoing threats to water quality for downstream users. Fracked gas is also highly explosive. Recent explosions have caused serious injuries and destroyed homes. By allowing this pipeline into our communities, we are tying ourselves to decades of fossil fuel use, resulting in high methane emissions and heightening our effect on climate change.
Effects on the Haw
Are you a landowner who has been contacted by Mountain Valley Pipeline or Doyle Land Surveying?
Know your rights. You have the right to say NO. Your ability to refuse to negotiate and require the energy companies to use eminent domain is one of the most powerful statements you can make to protect your land. It gives you the most influence afforded to you by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The pipeline company does NOT have the right of eminent domain until they have been issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from FERC. Surveyors do not have the right to be on your private property without your permission.
Click here for more information about what your rights are as a property owner.
- Pipeline extension from Mountain Valley Pipeline mainline in Pittsylvania County, VA.
- 70 miles of pipeline through Rockingham and Alamance County mostly in the Haw River watershed
- Size of pipeline is could be up to 24” in diameter.
- Pipeline will require 100’ of easement during construction,and a 50′ permanent easement.
- Route will run adjacent to the Haw in many areas, cutting across sensitive streams and tributaries.
- Destination is east of Graham and south of I-40-85
- “Fracked” shale gas running through pipelines is sourced from the Utica and Marcellus shale fracking operations in WVA and PA, and is owned by PSNC.
- Pre-filing permit processes will begin in May 2018. MVP will then hold community open houses though the route corridor to “identify and resolve environmental issues.”
- MVP aims to begin construction by 2020.
This is a long fight, so let’s not forget the progress we’ve made!
- Alamance County commissioners signed a unanimous resolution to oppose the pipeline project
- Elon University student government signed a resolution to oppose the pipeline project
- Stoneville signed a resolution to oppose the project
- NC DEQ wrote a critical letter of the project, stating they saw no demonstrated need
- Every local government body along the proposed route in Alamance County has heard a presentation or public comments from us in opposition of the pipeline project.
- NCDEQ rejected MVP Southgate’s first attempt to apply for the 401 certificate.
- City of Burlington writes critical comments to oppose the project
- 39 state legislators sign a letter to oppose the project
- Over 30 people turn out to speak in November 2019 against MVP’s second attempt to get a 401 certification for stream crossing impacts. (We expect to hear in February what NCDEQ decides)