ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) December has delivered major developments in the fight over the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Federal agencies including the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management identifed what they argue are serious flaws with the draft environmental impact statement.
December 22nd was the deadline for public comment, and groups that oppose the pipeline say more than 16,000 people submitted comments or signed petitions against the project.
They are also hoping the critical comments from federal agencies will carry weight with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Dan Crawford is the Roanoke chair of the Sierra Club.
"I am very, very encouraged," Crawford told WDBJ7. "This is just the news we needed right now."
Crawford said he was pleased that powerful federal agencies seconded many of the concerns pipeline opponents have been raising.
That doesn't mean supporters of the pipeline project were silent as the deadline for comment passed.
The Executive Director of the Virginia Petroleum Council called on federal regulators to approve the MVP.
"Demand is only going to grow over the next 15 to 20 years, so there clearly is a public need for the product," Miles Morin told WDBJ7 in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. "And these pipelines, Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline, both of them are going to be very important to meeting that need in the future."
Even as supporters continue to make their case, opponents say they have been energized by the latest developments.
"This at a time when for a lot of people they feel we've been dealt a crippling blow," Crawford said. "In my opinion we've been prodded to energetic action, get up, act, speak out, support those who are working with us. and we can get this thing done."
We were expecting a decision from FERC sometime this summer, but we're told that schedule might be slipping.
Opponents are now hoping with the involvement of powerful federal agencies will require a new environmental impact statement, further delaying the project.