Federal agency proposes MVP safety order

Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 7:31 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WDBJ) - A federal agency charged with pipeline safety is acting on concerns about the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Friday, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a ‘Notice of Proposed Safety Order’ that could require additional testing before and after the pipeline enters service.

PHMSA conducted an investigation and on-site inspections. The review indicated conditions may exist that pose a risk to pipeline integrity and could threaten public safety, property or the environment.

The PHMSA Notice of Proposed Safety Order highlights potential problems in a number of areas, including gaps in the system that helps control pipeline corrosion, pipeline coatings that may have been degraded by lengthy exposure to the sun, and two inspections that revealed issues with the pipeline’s installation.

Opponents say the report confirms many of the concerns they have been raising for years.

“It’s necessary. It’s appropriate that they’ve done something and we hope it will make some difference, but I’m not sure it will give folks who live within close proximity to this pipeline the kind of assurance that they would need,” said Wild Virginia Conservation Director David Sligh.

A continuing concern, Sligh said, is the fact that PHMSA will depend on information provided by the pipeline company.

“The fact that a lot of it is left to them, self-testing, self-monitoring, is inappropriate because that’s not the way it’s supposed to work,” Sligh said.

A spokesperson for the Mountain Valley Pipeline said safety has always been MVP’s top priority. In a written statement, Natalie Cox said Mountain Valley remains committed to working with the agency and other regulators as the project enters the final phase of construction.

The proposed safety order outlines corrective measures it says will ensure MVP identifies corrosion and other safety issues and ensure the integrity and safety of the pipeline.

MVP says it looks forward to resolving these issues quickly and continues to target completion by the end of the year.

Following is the full statement from Mountain Valley Pipeline:

On Friday, August 11, 2023, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Notice of Proposed Safety Order for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project. The MVP project team supports efforts to instill public confidence in the responsible construction and safe operation of the pipeline, and we recognize transparency is critical for both Mountain Valley and the project’s regulators.

Safety has always been MVP’s top priority, and we are committed to meeting or exceeding all applicable regulations to ensure the safety of our employees, contractors, assets, and communities. We expect federal and state regulators will continue to audit our construction practices during the next few months, and we welcome their expertise and oversight.

Since the project’s inception, Mountain Valley has worked closely with PHMSA and other agencies to ensure they have the information needed to assess our safety measures, including information on our comprehensive pipeline integrity program. Since 2018, PHMSA staff have engaged with the MVP team by meeting on an ad hoc basis, and weekly during active construction periods, to discuss the project’s comprehensive safety and integrity program; reviewing expansive project documentation provided by Mountain Valley; and conducting scores of multi-day inspections of the project.

As noted in the proposed order, PHMSA continues to conduct field inspections of MVP’s coating remediation processes, which were previously reviewed by the agency. To date, Mountain Valley has not been notified of any outstanding compliance concerns, and the proposed order includes no new allegations of non-compliance. While the proposed preliminary findings do not present an accurate view of the extraordinary efforts we have taken to ensure the safety and integrity of the pipeline, which has faced unprecedented delays due to circumstances beyond our control, Mountain Valley remains committed to working with PHMSA and other regulators as the project enters the final phase of construction.

We have requested informal consultation and look forward to an expeditious resolution. Project construction remains targeted for completion by the end of this year.