The virtual Roanoke River Currents Conference this October 21-22 is timely because our Roanoke River and hundreds of Southwest Virginia streams across MVP’s (Mountain Valley Pipeline) path are in imminent danger now that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has extended the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s (MVP) certificate for two years and lifted its stop-work order.
FERC’s first fast-track permitting caused hundreds of violations and loss of all major permits. In FERC’s Trump-generated second fast-track, MVP has regained all but its National Forest crossing permit, but extensive evidence proves MVP is violating the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts! Instead of protecting our region from “further environmental degradation,” FERC is now helping MVP fulfill its frantic timetable.
Bent Mountain’s pristine headwaters in Roanoke County are key to the Roanoke River, whose tributaries MVP crosses more than 120 times. Although clear-cut along MVP’s right-of-way, Bent Mountain is mostly untouched by construction. Each crossing on this shallow aquifer/wetland (habitat for the endangered Roanoke logperch) represents a source point for herbicides and heavy sediment pollution. A future decommissioned pipeline jeopardizes our valley’s long-term water future. Abandoned pipes breaking apart in unstable terrain could permanently release heavy metals, dangerous chemicals, toxic pollution, and radioactivity across the watershed with no remedy.
The reckless environmental gamble of MVP is too great for our fragile Roanoke River that serves so many in downstream communities and is the recreational centerpiece of our Valley’s long-planned Roanoke Greenway. Swimmers and boaters increasingly flock to our river “Blueway.” Preserving the Roanoke River’s cleanliness for these uses demands assertive state protectionfor Bent Mountain’s pristine watershed.
MVP’s stated intention to rapidly “trench through critical streams before challenges” places Virginia uplands and waters in imminent danger of being irrevocably disturbed by a rapid onslaught of destabilizing blasting and construction without enough inspectors. MVP is now preparing to recall 4,000 out-of-state workers for an early 2021 completion to satisfy impatient investors and maintain a crucial cash flow in its boondoggle ponzi scheme. Meanwhile, with the financial woes of the over-supplied natural gas industry, EQT, (MVP’s parent) is trying unsuccessfully to unload its unused 64.5% MVP capacity with no customers to repay the cost.
Gov. Northam has broken his original promises to use science and require a stream-by stream-analysis for MVP. Under Virginia’s DEQ, MVP was permitted to move forward with a faulty “Energy Balance Method” stormwater calculation that incredibly assumes soil would be as permeable or better post-construction (after heavy equipment and new access roads trample the soils) as pre-construction virgin forest soils! Because DEQ certified water quality using a boilerplate Nationwide12 Permit, they must correct this fundamental flaw which contributes to the widespread, failing sediment and erosion controls.
The environmental degradation potential of remaining upland work dwarfs MVP’s current record of vast destruction—partly documented in AG Mark Herring’s October 23, 2019 Consent Decree of 300 violations.
The Roanoke County administration recently sent a letter to FERC and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ) citing erosion concerns from regrowing vegetation difficulties in late fall construction and requesting.
Herring’s consent decree is failing to protect Virginia’s waters and endangered species! In September, thirty organizations, representing over 335,000 people, asked Herring to sue the Trump Administration for rollbacks of the Endangered Species Act and to alert the VADEQ about problems in MVP’s stormwater analysis that are harming endangered fish.
MVP reached this point under a rigged, “irrationally-exuberant” pro-industry regulatory system. Entering this more dangerous phase without a corrected stormwater analysis and individual stream crossing permits, MVP’s intended blitzkrieg of construction will exponentially compound environmental destruction without any justifiable need.
It’s now up to our state government to take effective measures to protect Virginia waters and endangered species from being destroyed by a dangerous out-of-state company that imperils Roanoke Valley’s vital and visionary use of our Roanoke River.
Virginians are counting on Attorney General, Mark Herring, who has the power and responsibility to file an injunction to stop MVP from construction until they revise all their erosion and sediment controls using an accurate stormwater drainage analysis.
Citizens deserve an honest process from those privileged to hold our public trust.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!