Environmental groups try to halt Mountain Valley Pipeline in federal appeals court

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Environmental groups have filed a federal appeal to try to stop construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

The groups filed a motion asking for a stay of the project’s certificate of public convenience and necessity that was issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The motion was filed late Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The motion argues that the federal court system needs to act immediately to stop “irreparable environmental harm” that would occur once construction of the natural gas pipeline begins. The motion to stay contends property owners along the pipeline’s path would suffer damage to their property and lifestyles.

“Petitioners, whose members reside near, recreate on, and own land that will be taken and degraded by the MVP, seek the stay to prevent irreparable injury to their property, environmental, aesthetic, and recreational interests pending the Court’s review.”

The motion contends FERC’s didn’t critically evaluate the purpose and need for the MVP.  The environmental groups also contend FERC lacked substantial evidence to support its finding of public convenience and necessity.

It aims to stop tree clearing and other construction that could start as soon as Feb. 1.

“Once private property is taken, mature trees are cut, steep slopes denuded, wetlands filled, trenches dug, and a high-pressure large-diameter pipeline is laid and filled with gas, the court can no longer restore the status quo,” the motion states.

MORE: Read the MVP Motion to Stay.

The pipeline developers wrote in a recent court filing that they need access to all the property no later than Feb. 1 to comply with a window for tree clearing required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The federal appeal was filed by attorneys for Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of several other environmental organizations: Appalachian Voices, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Sierra Club, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and Wild Virginia.

Angie Rosser

“FERC failed to follow the law; in so doing, it is recklessly sacrificing our streams, public lands and private property rights,” stated Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

“Their refusal to fully evaluate the purpose and need of this project robs the public of benefiting from less harmful alternatives. FERC’s shoddy approval of MVP makes a mockery of their responsibility to the public interest.”

The Mountain Valley Pipeline, along with the similar but separate Atlantic Coast Pipeline, gained approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in mid-October. One of the commissioners dissented, calling the public interest of the projects into question.

The motion to stay reflects one of the points raised by Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, who contended  FERC should have given greater attention to co-locating the MVP with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The $3.5 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline would extend 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline over 303 miles  to transport West Virginia natural gas into southern Virginia. The path would cross Greenbrier, Monroe, Nicholas, Summers, Braxton, Harrison, Lewis, Webster and Wetzel counties.

The MVP will be constructed and owned by Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, a joint venture between EQT Midstream Partners, LP; NextEra US Gas Assets, LLC; Con Edison Transmission, Inc.; WGL Midstream; and RGC Midstream, LLC.

Starting Feb. 1, MVP wants to start mobilizing construction crews across 11 segments of the project. Each of those is 30 miles long and will be cleared and constructed simultaneously.

MVP and its contractors will first fell and clear trees for properties used for service facilities and access roads. Work then will continue in a straight line down the path — clearing and grading the rights-of-way, ditching the line and moving the pipe.

Hitting that window is crucial, the company says, to minimize environmental consequences. Tree clearing has to happen prior to March 31 for locations with protected bats and before May 31 for species with protected migratory birds.

By mid-April to early May, MVP and the contractors intend to weld pipe in each of the 11 segments. They’ll then test the welds, lower the pipe into the trench, cover and grade the surface, work on crossings and tie-ins, clean and dry the pipeline and finally put as in.

The pipeline is planned to go into service by next December.

The company says it has agreements in place to start shipping gas late this year.

The pipeline developers are also in federal court cases over eminent domain with some property owners fighting the claims.




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