Across the U.S., environmental agencies of various states are opposing destructive, pipelines projects. The pro-fossil fuels-rigged system wrongly supported an onslaught of massive, fracked gas pipelines (starting around 2015) to transport Marcellas and Uttica fracked gas from WV and Ohio to Eastern coasts for LNG export in a false claim of “energy independence.” “Export” defies that mandate. These unjust, fast-tracked, super-sized pipeline projects followed the ruinous 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision: Kelo vs. New London, which allowed taking of homes and other property for private profit businesses. Until 2015, U.S. gas export was forbidden.
Here in Virginia, our Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ) greased the skids to allow Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) to use “tolling orders” — the right to take property from citizens and cut millions of trees preceding any compensation or resolving legal challenges. Virginia bulldozed this project through, despite the warnings of a Delegation-of-Six science experts who met with Governor Northam on May 16, 2018. For shame, Gov. Northam’s office never publicly responded to the important briefing (max 5-minutes each) that scientists and experts gave him—each delegate warning: “You cannot safely construct a supersized 42-inch pipeline over these steepest, unforgiving Appalachian slopes crossing more streams than any pipeline ever.
MVP planned to ship fracked gas across Virginia to the coast for LNG export–a harebrained project from its start. Its promoters foolishly believed that they could fast-track MVP over some of the steepest, most unstable East Coast terrain accelerating dangerous global warming from climate-disrupting methane from com pressurized pipeline methane leaks. Methane accelerates Earth’s warming faster than ever imagined. We see these results every day in extreme, unpredictable weather events which are costing Salem plenty. But irrationally exuberant MVP backers now tack on a “Southgate Extension” down into North Carolina or risk MVP being a “Pipeline to Nowhere.”
Wiser and less corrupt North Carolina twice rejected MVP’s Southgate extension– twice legally upheld. (Michael Regan, former North Carolina DEQ chief, now responsibly heads the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Other proposed New York and Pennsylvania-to-New Jersey super-sized Constitution and PennEast pipelines recently collapsed even though SCOTUS backed PennEast– crossing border public lands in NJ which then rejected permitting. As councilman Saunders wisely told me: “The way to stop a bad project is in its permitting.”
Roanoke Gas has contracted for a measly one take of the two billion cubic feet per day output. MVP crosses near Roanoke Valley due to Franklin County’s Summit View Business Park excuse for “need” where MVP is tearing up 37 miles of beautiful land inflicting massive pain and suffering to its residents and property values who consequently unseated six pro-pipeline elected leaders. Citizens expect leaders to foresee, prevent and attack threats that harm their quality of life.
In 2017, Salem Council unanimously approved Resolution 1324, calling for care in construction of MVP. Now, MVP – bragging and claiming 92 percent completion, didn’t follow any of Salem Council’s 2017 Resolution which was just resubmitted this week as Resolution 1413. Concerned citizens speakers before Council had requested that Salem endorse the EPA letter recommending non permitting under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Craig Co. BOS and other governments did this.
Now, near completion and tackling the most challenging crossings and terrain, MVP in no way followed any of Salem’s construction guidelines in Resolution 1324, resulting in MVP’s destructive 300-violation record enumerated in A.G. Herring’s Consent Decree agreed to by MVP which paid over $200 million fines – petty change for cost-of-doing-business for this well- funded project. These were civil penalties for criminal violations to our SWVA so-called “protected waters.” Several MVP partners like Next-Era have already written down billions in losses.
Additionally, MVP now threatens Salem’s precious upland Tier 3 regions’ waters, trout streams, aquifers and wetlands right in the very source of Salem’s headwaters of pristine Bottom Creek area. Salem’s Bent Mountain neighbors did their homework by pre-emptively establishing a VA Outdoors conservation easement and a historic district to protect the family’s outstanding heritage dating back to King George, who have for centuries been responsible stewards of downstream Salem’s water source. We should thank them by standing with them and do what we can to protect our suffering neighbors. Their valid actions were betrayed by VA Outdoors, DEQ, MVP and all other involved state and federal industry-captured agencies funded on VA taxpayers’ dime. Shame.
MVP now pursues construction in the CWA’s most protected upland headwaters, showing utter disregard for our national CWA—the permit under which MVP, as their last and only permitting permit option), is now requesting a Hail-Mary permit (for salvaging the legal permitting of their abusive project–almost certain to lose some of various legal challenges yet to be decided in Federal court.
MVP gets nastier by the day–seeking injunctions to stifle concerned citizen criticism of their ruinous project along with MVP’s proven history of abusiveness and carelessness. Twelve VA house Delegates and four VA Senators have petitioned the State Water Control Board to deny MVP’s CWA permit request. MVP ironically seeks permitting under our CWA (beloved legislation of the American people because it cleaned up polluted and sewage-infested rivers across America) proposing to be permitted under that very act to systematically pollute and degrade every stream it crosses—violating the letter and the spirit of that precious CWA law.
Those in our regions’ MVP ruinous route are now subjects to a reckless experiment without our informed consent. Governor McAuliffe never ran on building super-sized pipelines across Virginia. The deadline for endorsing the EPA recommendation to the Army Corps CWA stream-crossing permit ended October 27.
After citizens fended off completion of MVP under four years of a non-protective U.S. administration and EPA, it is now time for our elected leaders to take up the relay, effectively act to reinforce their resolution to protect Roanoke Rivers’ cleanliness and Salem’s investments, economic development and quality-of-life freedom to recreate and discover nature in a clean floodplain with our children. Protect our residents, colleges, churches, hospitals and families against higher gas rates for the unneeded MVP boondoggle project where we RGC captive ratepayers are now burdened supplying RGC their guaranteed 15 percent profit for their risky one percent investment in MVP where Salem is already burdened paying our regions’ highest gas rates.
It behooves Salem Councilmembers, in whom Salem citizens put their trust to take effective action to protect Salem’s outstanding quality-of life from present and future short and long-term unnecessary MVP harms.
- Cynthia Munley