Forest Service to prepare new environmental impact statement on Mountain Valley Pipeline crossing

Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 7:44 PM EST

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Mountain Valley Pipeline still needs permission to cross three and a half miles of the Jefferson National Forest, and this week the U.S. Forest Service said it will prepare a new environmental impact statement.

Twice before, a federal appeals court in Richmond has invalidated forest service approvals. And opponents of the natural gas pipeline say they fear officials are rushing the process again.

Dave Sligh is the Conservation Director of the group Wild Virginia.

“I’m not going to prejudge how they are going to proceed,” Sligh told WDBJ7 in an interview, “but we’re concerned they’re going to push it faster than they need to. And it’s clear they are under pressure to do that.”

This week the Forest Service provided notice that it will prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline. A draft is expected in January with a 45-day comment period to follow.

But Sligh said the agency should have engaged citizens months ago.

“And that’s supposed to be the key of these environmental impact studies - that they get all of the right information so that the right decisions can be made,” Sligh said. “So yeah, I’m concerned that they’re pushing forward too fast, and you know that ends up getting bad products, getting bad decisions.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Mountain Valley Pipeline said the company appreciates the efforts of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to resolve remaining issues.

And the company said the agencies’ timeline is consistent with MVP’s plan to have the pipeline in service by the end of next year.

Following is the full statement from MVP spokesperson Natalie Cox:

“On Thursday, November 17, 2022, the USFS released its Notice of Intent to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) related to the Mountain Valley Pipeline project. Mountain Valley submitted its application in summer 2022, and, as noted in the Federal Register, the agency expects to issue its Draft SEIS in January 2023 and its Final SEIS by summer 2023, which aligns with our current project schedule and second half of 2023 targeted full in-service date.

We appreciate the continued and diligent efforts of the USFS and the BLM to address and resolve the remaining issues regarding Mountain Valley’s construction in approximately 3.5 miles of the Jefferson National Forest. Mountain Valley believes that the few items referenced in the Fourth’s Circuit’s remand issued in January 2022 can be addressed within the timeframe outlined by the agency. With total project work roughly 94% complete, Mountain Valley looks forward to safely and responsibly completing this critical infrastructure project to serve the growing demand for affordable, reliable energy.

Opponents dispute how quickly MVP can complete the project.

Sligh said Wild Virginia and other groups will work to make sure pipeline opponents are heard during the comment period.

The final environment environmental impact statement is expected sometime next summer.