Mountain Valley seeks early start amid unfinished safety measures and environmental uproar

As environmental advocates rally against the premature operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, concerns mount over safety violations and the impact on vulnerable ecosystems,

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Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC’s recent request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to initiate operations of their incomplete methane gas pipeline has ignited a firestorm of criticism from environmental groups and activists. This plea, made notably on Earth Day, seeks to expedite the activation of the 303-mile pipeline that stretches through Virginia and West Virginia, reaching into North Carolina, despite significant portions of the project remaining unfinished and not fully compliant with safety regulations.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project, designed to transport natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, has been mired in controversy since its inception. It has faced persistent legal challenges, environmental protests, and substantial delays. Critics argue that the project’s rush to completion disregards fundamental environmental protections and safety concerns, posing a threat to local communities and ecosystems.

MVP’s request to FERC highlighted that less than two-thirds of the project had reached final restoration, with ongoing non-compliance issues related to a consent decree with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Jessica Sims, Virginia field coordinator for Appalachian Voices, condemned the move as indicative of MVP’s “ongoing disrespect for the environment,” critiquing the company’s disregard for completing essential safety measures.

Russell Chisholm, co-director of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) Coalition, labeled the request as “reckless and impossible,” reflecting a broader sentiment that MVP is prioritizing contractual obligations over environmental and community safety. Chisholm’s statement underscores the anxiety permeating communities along the pipeline’s route, who have already witnessed the adverse environmental impacts during the construction phase.

The project’s legal entanglements include a recent challenge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, contesting FERC’s approval of the MVP’s planned Southgate extension. Opponents argue that the project has deviated substantially from its original plans, rendering previous governmental approvals irrelevant. This legal contention highlights a growing resistance against the pipeline, emphasizing governmental failures to protect public interests in favor of corporate gains.

The pipeline has garnered significant political backing, notably from outgoing U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has been instrumental in embedding expedited construction provisions for the MVP into broader political deals, such as the debt ceiling negotiations. Financially, the pipeline is a high-stakes endeavor, with substantial investments from major financial institutions like Bank of America, which are targeted by upcoming protests.

The pipeline’s route through sensitive ecological zones has raised alarms about potential impacts on endangered species and vital water sources. Environmental defenders have documented instances of water contamination and habitat destruction during the pipeline’s construction phase. The upcoming demonstration outside Bank of America’s headquarters in Charlotte, organized by POWHR and other groups, aims to highlight these issues and press financial backers to reconsider their support.

“Approving the Southgate project is irresponsible. This project will pose the same kinds of threats of damage to the environment and the people along its path as we have seen caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline during the last six years,” stated David Sligh, Conservation Director at Wild Virginia.

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