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Stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline!

Photo: The MVP near Virginia’s Brush Mountain. Credit: Mountain Valley Watch

On Monday, June 10, Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requesting approval to begin service of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on the basis that it is now “mechanically complete.” Within 24 hours, the commission granted approval for the developers to begin operations, allowing for the flow of fracked natural gas through the heart of Appalachia.

This approval comes after a decade of outrage from frontline communities and environmental activists who had, up until now, successfully delayed construction of the pipeline largely through legal action and community resistance. 

MVP: A climate catastrophe in the making

First proposed in 2014 with an in-service target date of 2018, the MVP intends to carry fracked natural gas from Wetzel County, West Virginia to Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The pipeline stretches 303 miles across steep and unstable mountainous terrain, crossing nearly one thousand streams and freshwater ecosystems, disrupting Indigenous burial grounds, and putting hundreds of poor and working-class communities at risk. Furthermore, the FERC has allowed pipeline developers, through the process of eminent domain, to seize people’s land under the guise of “public interest.”

One of the immediate concerns for frontline communities is the risk of pipeline explosions and water contamination. The Appalachian mountain range is known for its steep, unstable slopes, leading to increased risk of landslides. In fact, landslides have resulted in at least five gas pipeline explosions in Appalachia alone since 2018. This is particularly concerning given the size and production capacity of the MVP. At 42 inches in diameter and 2.0 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, the MVP places communities, homes, schools and churches directly in its blast zone. 

While pipeline developers claim that all necessary safety and regulatory requirements have been met, opponents disagree, pointing to a failed hydrotest that occurred just last month when pressurized water caused a segment of pipe to rupture (see image below). This is just one of the 130 so-called “anomalies” requiring repair and analysis, as reported by pipeline developers this month to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Photo: The ruptured pipeline after a failed hydrotest. Credit: Grace Terry

The threats posed by the MVP are far greater than those facing the local communities of West Virginia and Virginia. In a 2017 report, Oil Change International found that the climate impact of the MVP is to be equivalent to about 26 coal fired power plants, or more than 19 million passenger vehicles. Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel projects like the MVP are direct contributors to climate change, leading to disastrous weather patterns and heat waves, such as those which have killed dozens across India in recent weeks.

Biden abandons climate promises

Despite increasing rhetoric from the White House that attempts to paint President Joe Biden as a “climate president,” the final approval to begin operation of the MVP would not have been possible without the help of Biden and Senator Joe Manchin. In June 2023, negotiations between Sen. Manchin and the White House resulted in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, a debt ceiling bill that included provisions for permitting reform. The bill, which describes the MVP as a matter of “national interest,” ultimately fast tracked the completion of the pipeline by requiring the Secretary of the Army to issue all necessary permits within 21 days and denied judicial review of such permits by any court. 

The egregious side deal forced through by Sen. Manchin and signed into law by President Biden was undoubtedly a direct response to the growing pressure from frontline communities and pipeline fighters who delayed the pipeline for a decade and doubled its construction costs from the initial $3.5 billion price tag.

The fight continues

In a statement following the announcement of FERC’s approval, Russell Chisholm, co-director of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights Coalition issued a warning: “Let this travesty be a lesson to all financiers, government officials and regulators: Stop backing all fossil fuel projects immediately.” 

Chisholm asserts that the fight is not over. “We have 303-miles of failing pipes — with at least 130 identified anomalies — pumping methane gas through our communities, and we are being targeted by new projects like Southgate and the Southeast Supply Enhancement Project. We deserve better and we are never going to stop demanding better.”

The ultimate approval of the MVP displays the inability and unwillingness of our so-called representatives — Democrat and Republican alike — to bring about any meaningful climate solutions. The profit driven-system of capitalism places the interests of fossil fuel executives and shareholders over the health, safety, and wellbeing of the people and the planet. Climate solutions exist but we must look beyond capitalism and toward a socialist reconstruction of society — one in which energy production is decommodified, decarbonized, and decolonized.

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