Pipeline Battle heats up in Court

Published at: https://www.newcastlerecord.com/top-stories/pipeline-battle-heats-up-in-court/
Signs of opposition to MVP at the Great Eastern Divide crossing on the Appalachian Trail, in Craig County view shed.

Preserve Craig is dedicated to sustaining the quality of life we value. Preserve Craig volunteers have been working for over two years on behalf of the community to defend Craig County from the abuse of the eminent domain laws being used to take the land for benefit of a private corporation.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is a proposed forty-two inch diameter high-pressure gas pipeline, which would be buried, in a ten-foot deep trench, blasted through the Sinking Creek Valley and across the Appalachian Trail. The construction right of way will be as wide as a 10-lane highway and will go straight up and over the mountains, through springs and caves connecting the gas fields of Pennsylvania with east coast ports for export.

The time for citizens to act is now, not after the permit is issued and construction has begun. Preserve Craig has submitted over 3400 pages of comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and The US Forest Service. The county supervisors have also acted to protect the citizens and property, recognizing that the mountain heritage, clean water, agriculture and tourism are the county’s greatest assets. The effects of this project reach across Virginia and West Virginia. Similar projects are in various stages of development all over the United States.

Donations, letters and signatures on petitions have contributed to paving the way for the legal efforts that are already underway to close the door on this kind of development. As these legal battles heat up, funds are desperately needed for the legal expenses that are mounting up for Preserve Craig. Donations may be made on line at Preservecraig.org or by mail at PO Box 730, New Castle, VA 24127.

But there’s more to do right now while the comment periods are open. Several agencies must approve the MVP plans and it is up to everyone to make the county’s comments heard at every level. MVP continues to submit flawed and inaccurate data to the FERC that seems to be accepted in spite of dangerous consequences for the people and the environment.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has just issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on June 23, 2017, recommending approval of MVP, despite significant impacts documented in their own environmental assessments. They relied on the data from MVP, discounting or ignoring numerous independent experts. FERC Commissioners are required to vote yes or no by September 21, 2017.

A picture paints a thousand words.

The US Forest Service (FS) issued a surprise Draft Record of Decision (DROD) on June 23, 2017, in support of MVP and accepting the FEIS. The notices were not posted to the FERC and they reversed prior FS scheduling notices. FS opened a 45-day OBJECTION period, only for those who have submitted comments about the Forest Management Plan, despite not having held a public comment period or public meetings. The DROD ignores the 2002 Record of Decision that this area is not appropriate for a utility corridor, a decision that Craig County has relied upon for 15 years in developing its economy and tourism plans. It would allow erosion, old growth removal, damage to the Appalachian Trail, harm to view sheds, etc.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) opened their surprise 30-day comment period regarding the FERC FEIS, also on June 23. BLM is the agency that would issue the permit for MVP to cross federal land. We need comments submitted to say that MVP construction will be a disaster for the water and people.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will hold public hearings about MVP at Radford University on August 8 and Chatham High School on August 9 from 6 to 10 p.m. regarding stream crossing and 401 permits. We ask for people to attend and voice their concerns. A large crowd will make a statement that there are serious concerns from the public.

Lawsuits are beginning to surface at many levels. The national organization, Bold Alliance, is organizing landowners to legally challenge eminent domain for private gain and stop MVP. Their case will be filed in federal court shortly. A lawsuit again EQM, owner of MVP, was recently certified to go forward regarding their fraudulent treatment of landowners.

There is hope. Some states have outlawed natural gas drilling and successful fights for pipelines have been won. We have plenty of legal challenges to get on the docket very soon. Standing before the bulldozers next year is not going to work. Now is the time to act, to write to to legislators, to comment to these State and Federal Agencies. Please visit the website to find out how to make comments or sign on to the efforts.

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