Pipeline opponents react to federal ruling

Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 7:00 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are reacting to a major ruling from federal regulators that gives the company a green light to resume construction.

And landowners who live in the path of the pipeline say they now fear a rush to complete the project through steep and challenging terrain.

Late Friday afternoon, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted a two-year extension to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, permission that was due to expire this week.

And FERC allowed construction to resume along most of the pipeline right-of-way.

The decision wasn’t unexpected, but opponents say it was a major disappointment nonetheless.

“Not really surprised, but still it was a gut punch."

Mary Beth and Bruce Coffey live on Bent Mountain in Roanoke County. Their land lies in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and they worry what’s next, now that FERC is allowing construction to resume.

“We’re afraid they’re going to come in here and just blitzkrieg this whole area and going to cut corners,” Bruce Coffey told WDBJ7 Monday morning. “They’re going to do anything they can to get finished before they get stopped again.”

A spokesperson for MVP said the company agrees with FERC, that the completion of construction and final restoration are best for the environment and landowners.

In a written statement Monday afternoon, Natalie Cox said the pipeline’s construction is designed to meet or exceed stringent federal standards. And she said MVP is dedicated to safe and responsible construction and operation.

But pipeline opponents argue FERC disregarded legitimate concerns raised by more than 40,000 people who filed comments, more than a dozen advocacy groups that opposed the extension and landowners like Bent Mountain’s Kathy Chandler who feel they have never been heard.

“It’s nothing that we asked for,” Chandler said. “We didn’t do anything wrong to deserve this. We used every bit of the process at our fingertips. And we are most recently told, you don’t matter.”

West Virginia landowner Maury Johnson believes he knows what’s coming

“I think Virginia is in for a construction storm if something doesn’t get stopped,” he said.

MVP still lacks some permits that it needs to complete the project. Legal challenges continue, and the company says it will delay crossing streams and other water ways while a case is pending before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

But it does appear western Virginia will see more construction activity soon.

Following is the full text of a statement Mountain Valley Pipeline provided Monday afternoon:

“We agree with the FERC’s assessment that completion of construction and final restoration is best for the environment and the affected landowners; and we are pleased with the FERC’s authorization for forward construction to resume along the majority of the MVP route, as well as its decision to grant MVP’s request for a two-year certificate extension. While we look forward to safely resuming construction on this important infrastructure project, we acknowledge the legal challenge that is currently before Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and have agreed to temporarily delay stream and waterbody activities out of respect for that process. As the litigation process progresses and as we receive additional information from the FERC regarding potentially releasing the remainder of the route for construction, MVP will continue to evaluate its current construction plans, budget, and schedule.”

“This interstate pipeline’s construction is designed to meet or exceed stringent federal regulations. The construction is being performed by qualified and highly skilled workers, and their work is reviewed by professional inspectors to ensure the pipeline is built to operate safely and reliably for decades to come. Pipelines are recognized as the safest way to transport fuel, and Mountain Valley is committed to the safe and responsible construction and operation of this important infrastructure project.”

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