In September 2020 I blogged about the five top reasons to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). I wrote that the pipeline is unnecessary and that it would perpetuate our dependence on dirty energy while imperiling the climate as well as clean water and the wellbeing of local communities. Construction began on the pipeline, but because of all the flaws in the plans, several court cases have overturned approvals that it wrongfully received from four different federal agencies during the Trump administration.
Right now, the pipeline is on hold because it is missing those essential federal permits.
Recently, however, its proponents have been amping up their PR campaign to spread misinformation to convince decisionmakers they should allow this disastrous project to restart construction.
It seemed like a good time to provide an update with actual facts. The current status of MVP?
MVP construction is only 55.8% complete. Not “nearly 95%” as claimed by pipeline supporters.
This statistic comes from the pipeline company’s own weekly reports submitted to FERC, with the most recent one being from May 2, 2022 (Appendix A, page 5).
What’s left to be constructed?
These water crossings require massive ground disturbance, either drilling a tunnel beneath a waterway or digging a trench (and possibly blasting) right through one. The risks come not only from the water crossing construction, but also from the damage to the surrounding landscape. No other large pipeline has ever been approved across this many miles of steep slopes and high landslide risk areas. MVP is designed to pass through more than 200 miles of “high landslide susceptibility,” and steeper slopes typically mean more threats to clean rivers and streams as well as increased risks of pipeline explosions.
The result of the construction to date, under the old but now voided permits, has been more than 300 violations of water quality protections alleged by the states of Virginia and West Virginia. And the land that would be crossed with the remaining construction includes some of the steepest slopes, public land in the Jefferson National Forest, and endangered species habitat—areas that are extremely vulnerable to destructive land disturbance.
When you consider the bulldozing and drilling that would be required to achieve more than 400 new water crossings, combined with the extremely steep slopes and MVP’s poor record of compliance with state environmental protection laws, clearly the risks are significant.
And the other key reasons to stop MVP still exist:
- It’s still the case that no one needs the dirty gas that could be transported by MVP: In the 2020 blog post, I explained why less than half of MVP’s capacity has commitments, even though the owner has claimed it is 100%. There is no evidence that there are independent companies that will actually purchase and use all of the gas that could be transported by a pipeline the size of MVP. As I mentioned then, Transco, an existing pipeline system, has stated that it can handle the region's current gas needs, and there is no projection that any state that could be served by MVP needs additional gas capacity. MVP is not necessary to meet the energy needs of American communities, to ensure domestic energy security, or to help our European allies as they fight for freedom and energy security of their own. For years, our pipeline system has been overbuilt purely to profit oil, gas, and pipeline companies; this is one more example. A sustainable energy future for America, and for the world, instead depends on shifting to and investing in clean energy as quickly as possible.
- Costs have increased even more: MVP has been in the works for more than 7 years. It was initially scheduled to be completed by December 2018, yet now the company projects a completion date of late 2023—five years behind schedule, and many doubt even that date. Clearly there is no urgency. It’s the last of massive new Marcellus pipelines that were conceived of years ago and are not part of our clean energy future. At the same time, the projected cost has steadily increased from $3.5 billion to $6.6 billion.
- It would still be a climate disaster: It’s been estimated that the full life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (excluding construction emissions) generated by MVP would be almost 90 million metric tons annually, equivalent to the emissions from 23 average U.S. coal plants or over 19 million passenger vehicles driven every year.
- It remains a legal nightmare: This project was poorly planned and executed from the start. The company regularly proposed, and the Trump administration approved, plans that violated federal laws (as determined by a federal court). That’s why the project is so far behind schedule. MVP approvals from the Trump administration’s Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and Fish and Wildlife Service have all been overturned (and more cases are now pending that could overturn state approvals from Virginia and West Virginia).
MVP remains a bad idea, and should not be allowed to restart construction.