Workers had begun laying portions of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Roanoke County near the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2018. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury – July 26, 2018)
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has allowed work to resume on nearly the entire length of the 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline.
The natural gas pipeline was being built between West Virginia and Pittsylvania County before a federal court invalidated key approvals for the project and FERC ordered a halt to construction.
The project still does not have those approvals, but FERC has determined that “the protection of the environment along the project’s right-of-way is best served” by allow work to resume. The decision was preceded by an analysis sent last by the Bureau of Land Management to FERC of other pipeline route alternatives “that offer collocation opportunities across federal lands.”
Since the bureau determined “that the route previously approved by all federal agencies provides the greatest level of
collocation for an alternative crossing that is also practical, the specific route of the project no longer seems in question,” FERC wrote.
“Maintaining the status quo across non-federal lands while the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the (Bureau of Land Management) address the court’s instructions regarding federal lands would likely pose threats to plant and wildlife habitat and adjacent waterbodies as long-term employment of temporary erosion control measures would subject significant portions of the route to erosion and soil movement,” wrote Terry Turpin, director of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects. “Requiring immediate restoration of the entire right-of-way to pre-construction conditions would require significant additional construction activity, also causing further environmental impacts.”
Pipeline opponents blasted the decision.
“FERC’s authorization does nothing to protect the environment as directed by the Fourth Circuit in its decision to vacate and remand the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management permits,” said Roberta Bondurant, co-chair of the Protect Our Water Heritage Rights Coalition and a landowner on Bent Mountain on the MVP route. “It inflicts yet more environmental and economic harms on our communities. It’s a glaring example of the doublespeak that has been substituted for real environmental protection through a factually and legally unsupportable response to the Fourth Circuit ruling.”
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