WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Energy Regulation Commission recently began considering a request to complete construction at the northern end of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the natural gas pipeline with a planned southern endpoint in Chatham.
The FERC issued a stop-work order in 2018 that impeded construction within a 25-mile zone situated between two Jefferson National Forest watersheds, citing environmental protection.
However, the three-person FERC rendered a 2-1 majority vote last month to allow construction along a 17-mile portion of the previously denoted exclusion zone through Giles and Craig counties, from mile 201.6 to mile 218.6 of the pipeline, immediately northwest of Roanoke, ultimately concluding that construction along that segment would not release any pollutants into the neighboring watersheds.
FERC Commissioner Richard Glick, who cast the losing vote last month, said the ruling was “a serious mistake.”
"The Commission’s contention that the condition is relevant only when a pipeline first commences construction makes the condition look like an excuse for justifying the Commission’s practice of granting conditional certificates and not a serious attempt to protect the environment or the public interest,” Glick wrote in a letter of dissent.
Mountain Valley's battle with the FERC is shadowed still by multiple environmental protection groups in Virginia and West Virginia.
The environmental public interest group Appalachian Voices issued a statement, saying, “Without proper analysis, the public cannot know the severity of impacts to soil, steep slopes, streams and wetlands that dozens of conventional borings would bring."
Nearly 1,000 people submitted signatures in support of that comment.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline project is slated to be a 303-mile natural gas pipeline with a southern terminus in Chatham.
The pipeline, if and when completed, will be 42 inches in diameter and provide 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.
It has been noted that, since 2000, the FERC has approved 99 percent of corporate applications for natural gas projects. Glick claims the FERC is still missing the permits requisite to legally grant the ruling that was produced Dec. 17.
"MVP is still missing necessary permits, including authorization to cross the Jefferson National Forest," Glick said. "Given the MVP permits’ checkered litigation record, we should not authorize MVP to commence piece-meal construction, including construction affecting a national forest, before it has all the permits needed to complete the Project along its current route.”
“I see no reason why it is not equally important to require the pipeline to meet the same condition every time it recommences construction, especially after having a necessary permit invalidated by court order,” he continued.