FERC ignores court filings and allows MVP to build access roads in West Virginia
There is so much activity to both stop and start Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) cutting trees that we’ll only be able to cover some of the most current news in this week’s column.
Virginia DEQ: Dr. Brian Murphy, chair of Preserve Craig’s Science Committee asked Governor Northam to intervene and require the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to independently evaluate the irreparable harm the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) will cause. The DEQ has not accepted MVP’s construction plans. Citizens are being asked to contact the Governor in support of this request, which can be found on our website.
Forest Service: Preserve Craig’s attorney, Tammy Belinsky, filed a lawsuit to block the Forest Service from illegally making eleven harmful changes to the Jefferson Forest Management Plan. If allowed to stand, these changes would allow MVP to build in roadless areas, on very steep slopes, erode soils, damage streams, and harm viewsheds and the Appalachian Trail. The January 17 brief to the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Preserve Craig, The Wilderness Society, and Save Monroe details 16 violations of laws, rules, and procedures, including required protection of public lands and prior decisions regarding cultural attachment. The 2002 decision by the Forest Service to protect this area is an integral part of Craig County’s economic plans. That decision is still on record and was not addressed in the Forest Service decision to allow MVP.
FERC: Last Monday, while the government was under a “shut down,” the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued its first notice to MVP to allow limited construction at six worksite yards and 93 access roads in five West Virginia Counties. The January 22, 2018, letter to MVP ignored the numerous court filings against the FERC and MVP and Preserve Craig requests for Re-Hearing and motions for rehearing.
This approval directly conflicts with requests by both Senator Kaine and Virginia’s new Governor Northam not to proceed further until there is a proper re-hearing and vote by the full commission. This week Congressman Morgan Griffith supported Kaine’s letter in a bipartisan request for the FERC to review its rushed decision.
New questions are being raised about the assertion that the project is even needed and the fact that the contracts for the gas are internal deals between the owners of the pipeline and do not show need. Even the FERC’s new commissioner appointees are raising these concerns.
Last Tuesday the Federal Court in Clarksburg, WV listened to landowner arguments to protect their rights and block MVP from taking their land by highly questionable eminent domain. Similar hearings were held earlier this month in Roanoke, where MVP’s own “experts” had trouble answering the questions being asked.
At the same time, in Newport News, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission heard compelling testimony against issuing key permits that would allow MVP to use “open trenching” to cross 18 pristine mountain streams including Craig Creek and Sinking Creek.
There are still numerous obstacles to the construction of the MVP, including DEQ’s acceptance of MVP’s sedimentation control plan. In the meantime, the project is a year behind schedule and investors are balking at the fact that the project no longer makes financial sense. MVP is pushing hard, presenting inaccurate information, and claiming financial harm because tree-cutting must occur in winter only. The numerous lawsuits against MVP, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) are pending in the Federal Courts.
Here in Craig County, MVP is proposing to move equipment and pipes by crossing Sinking Creek without obtaining proper permits or building a road. This will need very close monitoring.
And, just in this week, MVP has asked for permission to begin construction in Giles County.
Craig County gets consulting status
Craig County became a consulting party to protection historic sites along the MVP route. In the approval letter, FERC still claims there are no historic properties along the proposed pipeline route in Craig County, even though the application informed the FERC that there is a civil war cemetery that was mislabeled by MVP as being 100 years more recent than it is.
Preserve Craig is actively pursuing every legal avenue to block MVP from harming our waters, our forests, our viewsheds and our economy. We are working with our neighbors in adjoining counties and across the country to protect our way of life here in Craig. The FERC rehearing requests, motions opposing permitting, lawsuits against the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have been filed in a timely manner.
We are blessed to be living in this special place. We need to protect Craig County and this region for generations to come and need your donations and support to continue these efforts!