By Michael Sainato
The Mountain Valley Pipeline will extend 303 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, with a recently proposed 70 mile extension into North Carolina. The project is being funded and operated by Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, owned by EQT Midstream Partners, LP; NextEra US Gas Assets, LLC; Con Edison Transmission, Inc.; WGL Midstream; and RGC Midstream, LLC.
The pipeline will transport up to 2 billion cubic feet of fracked natural gas daily from the Marcellus and Utica shale basins, "to supply the growing need for natural gas in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern regions of the United States," according to a EQT Midstream Partners spokesperson.
The Federal Energy Reserve Commission approved the pipeline in October 2017 with a 2-1 vote, with two seats on the commission vacant. The only dissenting vote was cast by Cheryl LaFleur, who cited environmental concerns and skepticism over the pipeline's necessity as influential factors on her vote against its approval. In February, a federal court denied a request to delay the pipeline's construction filed by Appalachian Voices and five other conservation organizations. Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC is currently clearing forest along the Appalachian Trail and in Jefferson National Forest for the pipeline construction. According to FERC, Mountain Valley Pipeline has until May 31 to complete tree cutting.
Pipeline opponents claim the pipeline's construction will negatively impact the scenery and pose various environmental risks in the Appalachian region. "We are concerned about the Appalachian Trail and the devastation that's going to occur to the views from Peters Mountain and all along this region," said Maury Johnson, a resident and property owner in West Virginia opposing the pipeline, in an interview. "Back when I was a teenager I used to help maintain the trail, and I heard stories from those folks who helped build it in the 1930s and 40s. The trail took a 22 mile detour just to get on top of Peters Mountain and get the iconic view across West Virginia. Now with this project, you'll see the pipeline coming at you probably for thirty miles."
Johnson noted that pipeline surveyors visited the property on his family farm, and he has dealt with them since surveying began in early 2015. He claimed the surveyors rushed the job, often missing details that he had to frequently point out for them to record. "Some of the work that has been done has been very flawed," he said. On his Facebook account, Johnson has posted several photos of sediment barriers set up by Mountain Valley Pipeline being breached to prevent erosion, just one of the several risks to water quality in the area posed by the pipeline. Johnson also expressed concern for Bentley's coral root, a plant listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, only found in a few areas of Virginia and West Virginia, as one of the species at risk from the pipeline's construction.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline has sued several hundred landowners in West Virginia and Virginia to invoke eminent domain to allow it to cut trees and run the pipeline through their properties. Some landowners and pipeline opponents have resorted to conducting tree sit-ins, building treehouses in trees on their own property to prevent the Mountain Valley Pipeline from clearing their land.
"They came through a few days ago and cut all around me," said Red Terry, a 61 year woman who has lived in a tree on her property off Poor Mountain Road in Roanoke County, West Virginia for at least three weeks, in an interview. "My daughter is also in a tree and had them on all four sides of her. She cried all day. Nobody should have the right to eminent domain for something that is not going to help people. It's to help themselves, profit before the people."
Neighbors, friends, family and activists have helped assist Red in her tree sit-in. Despite her continued protest, she said that Mountain Valley Pipeline cut down several trees on her property and have pressured her to come down, including allegedly blackmailing her sister with artifacts found on her property in exchange for Red leaving the tree.
"When they were cutting my trees and I had tears running down my face, the cops were watching the devastation also, I looked at one of them and I thought he was going to start crying. At the same time, four Mountain Valley Pipeline security guards were laughing, carrying on, and thought it was the greatest thing in the world."
Last Thursday, police formally pressed charges against Red Terry and her daughter; trespassing, obstruction of justice and interfering with property rights. The charges have now created a stand-off, as Red and her daughter will be arrested as soon as they descend from their trees. But their fight has become a rallying call among other pipeline opponents in the area.
On Peters Mountain, along the West Virginia and Virginia border, activists and local residents have organized other tree sit-ins, including setting up a monopod tower to try to block an access road to the pipeline construction. "The frontline communities impacted by the pipeline have been very supportive. The people in Appalachia have consistently throughout history fought back against exploitative industries like the Mountain Valley Pipeline," said Ashley, a tree sitter on Peters Mountain, in an interview. "There have been consistent police and security forces harassing us. Some are more hostile to us than others, but even when they try to play the good cop role, there's no doubt in my mind they are working on behalf of the interests of those building the pipeline." The identity of this tree sitter is being kept anonymous to prevent legal action against them.
The U.S. Department of Agricultural Forest Service shut down the road and the area around the monopod from the public, only permitting Mountain Valley Pipeline services access. The monopod organizers have accused the U.S. Forest Service of preventing supplies, water and food from being brought to the protesters. The U.S. Forest Service did not respond to a request for comment.
On March 20, Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Robert Irons denied an injunction filed by the Mountain Valley Pipeline against protesters to have them removed, permitting the tree sit-ins to continue.
Pipeline opponents have pointed out the powerful political influence the Mountain Valley Pipeline companies have on elected officials in West Virginia and Virginia.
The companies invested in Mountain Valley Pipeline have significantly backed both Republicans and Democrats. In the 2017-2018 election cycle, EQT Midstream Partners gave Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's campaign $25,000 and his inaugural committee another $25,000 after donating $20,000 to Republican Governor candidate Ed Gillespie's campaign. In total, they've donated $60,000 to Republican state legislators in Virginia and $56,000 to Democrats. At the federal level, EQT has donated $5,000 to Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and $1000 to Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) this election cycle.
Opposition to the pipeline has started to draw some support from elected officials. On April 16, 11 Virginia House delegates, including Lee Carter, a Democratic Socialist who unseated one of the state's top Republicans in a November 2017 election, signed onto a letter of support for peaceful protesters against the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
"We oppose both the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines," said Tom McIntire,a spokesperson for Delegate Lee Carter, in an email. "These projects do not provide any benefit for Virginia or her residents and ask those same residents to bear costs that are too great to reasonably expect of them. With every avenue we are given, we will work (with our colleagues of both parties alongside advocates) to ensure that these disastrous projects are halted."
As elected officials begin to support efforts to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline, conservation organizations are still pursuing litigation to halt construction.
There are currently four separate cases in litigation being represented by attorneys for Appalachian Mountain Advocates and other conservation organizations. One challenging the state of Virginia's clean water act 401 certification of the pipeline and one challenging the the actions of the U.S. Forest Service to grant a right of way through Jefferson National Forest are scheduled to be heard on May 8. The third case challenging the Army Corps of Engineers' Water Quality Review is scheduled to be heard in September, with the fourth case challenging the "certificate of public convenience and necessity" granted to the pipeline by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission still pending a briefing schedule in Washington, DC court.
Major East Coast Pipelines Approved by FERC Despite Strong Opposition https://t.co/qgIFQCEEKL @Ecowatch— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1508164487.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
- 6 Banks Behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline ›
- North Carolina Denies Key Water Permit to Mountain Valley Pipeline Extension - EcoWatch ›
- Federal Regulators Rule Controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline Can Restart Construction - EcoWatch ›
- Court Halts Key Permits for Mountain Valley Pipeline - EcoWatch ›
Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline were dealt a blow after the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) denied a hearing request to appeal the state's water quality certification for the controversial project.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that WVDEP secretary Austin Caperton signed a letter addressed to the environmental law firm Appalachian Mountain Advocates denying its request for the hearing. The brief letter did not state a reason for denial.
Appalachian Mountain Advocates senior attorney Derek Teaney said individuals and groups he represents will likely appeal Caperton's decision in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline will carry fracked gas 300 miles from northwest West Virginia to southern Virginia, crossing streams and wetlands in the 195-mile project area in West Virginia.
This Pipeline Would Cut Through America's Most Celebrated Hiking Trail https://t.co/glEu9fkfWq @BoldNebraska @NoTarSands— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1482018005.0
In March, the WVDEP announced it issued the State 401 Water Quality Certification for the project, which stipulates that pipeline activity will not violate the state's water quality standards. The department also praised the project as it would help "meet the growing need for power generation in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions."
However, Appalachian Mountain Advocates contends that the WVDEP acted prematurely in issuing the permit. As the Roanoke Times detailed, the Lewisburg, West Virginia-based nonprofit has a slew of concerns over the department's approval of the natural gas pipeline, including:
• The department had not established current water quality baseline data for streams that the pipeline would cross.
• The department had failed to adequately consider impacts to water quality from land disturbance and subsequent erosion and sediment unrelated to stream crossings.
• Because the pipeline's route is not yet final and property surveys are incomplete, the "locations and effects of discharges associated with the construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline [are] ill-defined and impossible to fully evaluate."
• The department had not adequately evaluated the effects on public drinking water supplies of the pipeline's construction and operation.
"It's really disappointing that the secretary of the DEP so cursorily rejected our request for a hearing," Teaney said earlier this week. "But it's not surprising given how little attention the agency gave the application in the first instance, accepting such limited information from the applicant."
"One specific example is in Giles County, where two existing historic districts are threatened by the [Mountain Valley Pipeline] ... The covered bridges and historic structures that lend the district integrity and the continued agricultural pattern of land use in this area would be permanently and irrevocably impacted by the pipeline."
Conservation groups also warn that the line would cut through one of the most celebrated hiking trails in America—the Appalachian Trail.
Caroline Mosley, of The Wilderness Society, wrote in an online post that the pipeline could threaten wildlife habitat, recreational lands and the health of local Appalachia communities—all "while setting a terrible precedent of building energy infrastructure through our national forests."
The proposed pipeline is a joint $3.5 billion project of EQT Midstream Partners LP, NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, WGL Midstream and Vega Midstream MVP LLC.
The interstate project will be regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The agency will issue a final environmental impact statement for the pipeline on June 23.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
A new briefing paper details how Dominion Energy's proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would involve the blasting, excavation and removal of mountaintops along 38 miles of Appalachian ridgelines as part of the construction.
The planned 600-mile interstate
pipeline will carry 1.44 billion cubic feet per day of fracked gas from West Virginia to North Carolina, cutting through forests, critical animal habitats and pristine mountains that Dominion would be required to "reduce" between 10 to 60 feet, according to the paper released Thursday by the non-profit Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
The paper cites data from the draft environmental impact statement prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Council (FERC) as well as information supplied to FERC by Dominion. It also compiles information from Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping software and independent reports prepared by engineers and soil scientists.
"In light of the discovery that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will cause 10 to 60 feet of mountaintops to be removed from 38 miles of Appalachian ridges, there is nothing left to debate," said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
"Dominion's pipeline will cause irrevocable harm to the region's environmental resources. With Clean Water Act certifications pending in both Virginia and West Virginia, we call on Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and West Virginia Governor Jim Justice to reject this destructive pipeline."
Dominion, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy. The developer promises that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will have "minimal environmental impact" and that "best-in-class restoration and mitigation techniques will be used to protect native species, preserve wetland and water resources, control erosion and minimize emissions." Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas also have a stake in the project.
Environmentalists and other opponents argue that the pipeline will have adverse effects on sensitive habitats, reduce property values and introduce dangerous precedents for the seizure of private property through eminent domain.
Joyce Burton, a board member of Friends of Nelson County, expressed fears that Dominion's plan to build the pipeline on steep and landslide-prone Appalachian slopes could be catastrophic.
"Many of the slopes along the right of way are significantly steeper than a black diamond ski slope," Burton said.
"Both FERC and Dominion concede that constructing pipelines on these steep slopes can increase the potential for landslides, yet they still have not demonstrated how they propose to protect us from this risk. With all of this, it is clear that this pipeline is a recipe for disaster."
Opponents of the pipeline are demanding more transparency from the company.
Ben Luckett, a staff attorney at Appalachian Mountain Advocates, said it was "astounding" that FERC has not required Dominion to produce a plan for dealing with the millions of cubic yards of excess rock and soil that will result from cutting down the 38 miles of ridgetop for the pipeline.
"We know from experience with mountaintop removal coal mining that the disposal of this material has devastating impacts on the headwater streams that are the lifeblood our rivers and lakes," Luckett added.
"FERC and Dominion's complete failure to address this issue creates a significant risk that the excess material will ultimately end up in our waterways, smothering aquatic life and otherwise degrading water quality. Without an in-depth analysis of exactly how much spoil will be created and how it can be safely disposed of, the states cannot possibly certify that this pipeline project will comply with the Clean Water Act."
Dan Shaffer, a spatial analyst with the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, said there are too many risks involved with the project.
"Even with Dominion's refusal to provide the public with adequate information, the situation is clear: The proposed construction plan will have massive impacts to scenic vistas, terrestrial and aquatic habitats, and potentially to worker and resident safety," Shaffer said.
"There is no way around it. It's a bad route, a bad plan and should never have been seriously considered."
Here are some of the new paper's key findings:
• Approximately 38 miles of mountains in West Virginia and Virginia will see 10 feet or more of their ridgetops removed in order to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
• This figure includes 19 miles in West Virginia and 19 miles in Virginia.
• The majority of these mountains would be flattened by 10 to 20 feet, with some places along the route requiring the removal of 60 feet or more of ridgetop.
• Building the ACP on top of these mountains will result in a tremendous quantity of excess material, known to those familiar with mountaintop removal as "overburden."
• Dominion would likely need to dispose of 2.47 million cubic yards of overburden, from just these 38 miles alone.
• Standard-size, fully loaded dump trucks would need to take at least 247,000 trips to haul this material away from the construction site.
A report prepared by Key-Log Economics for the Sierra Club and Appalachian Mountain Advocates was released Monday, detailing what it calls the true costs of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. The proposed fracked gas pipeline was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on its former chair's final day—just before the commission lost its quorum.
4 Pipeline Fights Intensify as Dakota Access Nears Completion https://t.co/NphteXzXtJ @IENearth @FrackAction @joshfoxfilm @MarkRuffalo @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1487521075.0
The Atlantic Sunrise project would clear cut its way through 10 Pennsylvania counties, impacting 2,000 acres of forested land and crossings hundreds of wetlands and water bodies. The proposed route includes nearly 200 miles of new pipeline which would supply gas exports out of Maryland and gas plants in North Carolina and Florida.
"From the beginning, communities along the pipeline's route and activists stood up to the corporate polluters behind this project and FERC, demanding their homes be protected from this dirty and dangerous project," said Ann Pinca, who lives in Lebanon County, which would be affected by this pipeline.
"FERC's failure to listen to the people and account for the true costs of this pipeline—not to mention recognize the lack of need for it—now puts tens of thousands of men, women and children at risk of not only polluted air, but spills and explosions."
The red lines show the proposed Atlantic Sunrise expansion. The light blue lines are the existing Transco system.Williams
The report states that FERC overstated the pipeline's economic benefits while discounting or ignoring its costs, including the effects of the pipeline on property values; loss of environmental benefits like flood control, clean water and wildlife habitat; economic damages associated with increases in greenhouse gas emissions; and public health costs due to the release of toxins and smog-forming pollutants.
"The report makes even more clear that, while the damage that this pipeline would cause to private property and the environment is very real, any benefits to the public are illusory," said Ben Luckett, an attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
The report estimates the pipeline's total costs (the initial cost plus the discounted value of all future annual costs) at between $21.3 and $91.6 billion. The one-time costs (ecosystem services lost during construction) are estimated to be $6.2 to $22.7 million, while annual costs for this diminished ecosystem service productivity would total approximately $2.9 to $11.4 million per year. Using a 2.5 percent discount rate, the annual cost associated with the social cost of carbon from the project's greenhouse gas emissions would be $2.3 to $3.5 billion per year.
The report cautions that the estimates are conservative and do not include the value of landscape preservation or damages to natural resources, property and human health in the event of a leak or explosion. The report does not quantify estimates in property value losses, but it does analyze what it calls FERC's failure to include realistic estimates in its analysis, citing the "well-established negative impact" of pipelines on property values.
"FERC failed to recognize the true cost of the pipeline and the people won't only be saddled with the pollution it will generate, but also the huge economic costs associated with its construction and operation," said Thomas Au, conservation chair for the Pennsylvania Chapter of Sierra Club.
"And once the transition to clean, renewable energy is complete, communities will still have to live with these stranded assets left scarring our forests and towns. This pipeline should've been rejected at the beginning and should not be constructed."
Air pollution from compressor stations built along the pipeline's proposed route would cause more than 7,500 people to experience adverse health effects, including respiratory illnesses, sinus problems, vision impairment and severe headaches. This is in addition to the nearly 20,000 homes and more than 45,000 people who would live in the pipeline's evacuation zone.