FERC’s Director of the Office of Energy Projects Terry Turpin posted a letter to the Mountain Valley Pipeline docket August 29 granting what the Commission calls a “partial authorization to resume construction.” The authorization allows for all construction along the 303-mile pipeline to resume, with the following exceptions:
- The crossing of the Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike on lands owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in Braxton County, West Virginia; and
- Between milepost 196.0 and milepost 221.0, an area encompassing the two watersheds containing the 3.5 miles of pipeline route across the Jefferson National Forest, in Monroe County, West Virginia and Giles County, Virginia.
Turpin stated that the continuation of construction was permitted “because construction will best mitigate further environmental impacts.” This statement comes despite the ongoing egregious erosion and sedimentation incidents that have been reported by citizen volunteers over the course of construction thus far.
Attached to Turpin’s letter was a document from the Bureau of Land Management outlining the agency’s analysis of the MVP route on federal lands through the lens of Mineral Leasing Act Section 28(p), the section of law that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals deemed was not adequately considered and thus led the court to vacate and remand the previously granted permit.
Just a few hours after Turpin’s letter was issued, Commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick filed a joint statement expressing “significant concerns” with FERC staff’s decision to allow construction to continue along the bulk of the MVP route. In the letter, the Commissioners stated they supported staff’s previous decision to stop all work on the pipeline project in light of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to vacate and remand permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service.
“In response to recent court decisions, Commission staff has acted within its delegated authority to address the impact of those court decisions on post-certificate pipeline activities, as it did today,” the statement read. “However, given the increasing complexity of such issues, we believe the Commission should revisit this practice. In the future, when a court remands or vacates a required federal authorization following the issuance of a notice to proceed, we believe the decision regarding whether and how to proceed with the pipeline should be made by the Commission rather than its staff.”
Roberta Bondurant, POWHR Coalition Co-Chair:
“FERC’s authorization does nothing to protect the environment as directed by the Fourth Circuit in its decision to vacate and remand the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management permits. Rather, it inflicts yet more environmental and economic harms on our communities. It’s a glaring example of the doublespeak that has been substituted for real environmental protection through a factually and legally unsupportable response to the Fourth Circuit ruling.
“Elected officials should be walking their talk of democracy now — landowners and communities are rightfully outraged by the industry abuse of small, mostly rural communities in West Virginia and Virginia, and we will not lay down for environmental devastation and economic disaster.
“The citizen monitors of Mountain Valley Watch who have taken on the work of failing state and federal agencies in monitoring MVP’s march of destruction across southern Virginia and West Virginia will carry on. Our volunteer coalition will continue to challenge MVP by all available legal actions.”
Maury Johnson, Executive Committee Member for POWHR Coalition, Affected Landowner in Monroe County, WV
“Although today’s action by FERC and the BLM was not unexpected, the swiftness of their action goes to show that no real effort was made to analyze the concerns outlined by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. We will continue to fight for our water, air, environment and property rights and demand that the courts do what our state and federal agencies have not done and protect the citizens of WV and VA from this predatory corporation, whose only concern is it’s profits over the lives and livelihood of those citizens whom will be severely and irreparably harmed if this project is allowed to continue.”
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Visit the Mountain Valley Watch Portal to see evidence of incident reports along the MVP route and to learn more about the volunteers working to hold MVP and regulators accountable. To support the Mountain Valley Watch, make a donation through Virginia Organizing designated to POWHR!