The Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast gas pipelines, insufficiently studied and greenlighted by the Trump administration late last year, could potentially span a combined total of 900 miles—and both would cut through Virginia. A new report by NRDC and the environmental consulting firm Downstream Strategies found that these pipelines pose serious environmental threats to the state’s surrounding water supplies and ecosystems.
Previous studies have shown that the pipelines will cause Virginia consumers’ electricity bills to rise and won’t create as many jobs as claimed, but this report is the first to look at the specific impact on Virginia’s rivers and streams. Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, expressed concern about the projects in the past, but environmental groups, including NRDC, hope these new findings will convince him to launch a new and thorough review of the pipelines’ threats to water, which could ultimately lead to the projects’ rejection. Here are six alarming findings from the study.
1. The two pipelines would cross Virginia waterways more than 1,000 times, directly threatening the Chesapeake Bay watershed and important wetlands.
2. The pipelines are bad news for clean drinking water: 11 crossings will occur less than a mile from two reservoirs supplying drinking water to Norfolk.
3. Wild and native trout streams are at risk: 73 of the water crossings were deemed “highest-concern” by the conservation nonprofit Trout Unlimited.
4. Construction of the pipelines would result in above-normal sediment in streams, even after construction is finished. Excess sediment is a pollutant that harms fish and aquatic life.
5. More than 315 acres of crucial Virginia wetlands are at stake, including 75 acres connected by water to the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
6. The pipelines will run through or near some of the state’s low-income communities of color—including Franklin and Emporia—and could threaten their clean drinking water.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline—and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, with a similar path—could tear up land and negatively impact people throughout Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina.