Editor: Three years ago, on May 17 and 18, 2019, hundreds of Virginians united in common cause to oppose unjust and unneeded fracked-gas pipelines, and to stand in solidarity for environmental justice and the climate.
On May 17, the Stand with Appalachia: Progress Not Pipelines rally was held in Richmond. On May 18, a rally was held in Leesburg, Attorney General Mark Herring’s hometown.
Since then, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, ACP, has been defeated, but climate disaster Mountain Valley Pipeline, MVP, is still active. Last year on the second anniversary of these anti-pipeline rallies, Del. Chris Hurst wrote an Op-Ed in the Roanoke Times – Hurst: Mountain Valley Pipeline is not the Future Virginia Needs, He reminisced “What I shared with the crowd that day in Leesburg still rings true: There is no need for the MVP and it should be cancelled.
Both pipelines were permitted in December 2017 by misusing/abusing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit 12, NWP 12, to fast track these fracked gas pipelines through rural Southwest Virginia. The original intent of NWP 12 was to streamline the permitting process for utility lines, not 42” diameter gas pipelines. As a result, these pipelines caused:
- irreparable harm to the environment and ecosystems
- irreparable damage to private property
- negative impacts to landowners’ livelihood
- wasted public and private fiscal resources and time
Pipeline builders clearcut 125-foot wide swaths along hundreds of miles for both pipelines routed through rural southwest Virgina. The routes traverse steep terrain, cut into fragile limestone bedrock, and cross over 1,000 streams. Natural gas pipelines have never been built in such steep terrain. Sediment and erosion control devices deployed are inadequate. The MVP violated Virginia’s Water Quality Standards hundreds of times. In December 2018, Virginia’s attorney general filed suit against MVP, citing over 300 water quality violations. Because the NWP 12 does not require project specific National Environmental Protection Act, NEPA, or Clean Water Act, CWA, review violations continue to this day every time it rains.
Multiple lawsuits against the ACP and MVP overturning Federal Agency Permits clearly demonstrates the misuse of NWP 12. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, ACP, prior to its cancellation, had 8 permits rescinded by a federal court or a regulatory agency. Recently, the MVP received significant defeats: this February, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down, for the second time, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service approval to cross the Jefferson National Forest, and the Bureau of Land Management permit was struck down as well.
Fracked gas pipelines exacerbate climate change. Upon the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutierrez declared on 09/08/2021 “code red for humanity.” It is obvious that fossil fuels, particularly the extremely potent greenhouse gas methane, aka “natural gas,” must stay in the ground. Rescinding NWP 12 is critical.
Written public comment can be made at: regulations.gov/document/COE-2022-0003-0001. You can view other comments received to help develop your own. The last date to submit your comments is May 27. Use your voice.
Natalie Pien, Leesburg