This blog post was written by POWHR’s Communications Director Denali Nalamalapu.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is 42-inches in diameter. That’s about the length of a baseball bat, a guitar, or three sub sandwiches. Opponents of MVP have used hula hoops to illustrate the size of the pipeline.
Pipelines that are above 36 inches are considered large diameter pipelines. For reference, the largest pipeline on the continent is the TransAlaska pipeline, with a 48 inch diameter. The largest pipeline diameter in the world is the Yamal Europe pipeline at 56 inches.
The Department of Energy reports that most interstate pipelines are between 24 and 36 inches in diameter. So why is MVP so much bigger and why does that matter?
The bigger the pipeline, the less safe it is because it takes more pressure to move gas through the pipe. This increases and exacerbates the blast zone, which is the impact radius around the pipeline if it were to explode.
Bill Caram, Executive Director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, said of the MVP, “This isn’t just another natural gas pipeline. This is a very large, very high-pressure pipeline. It is a completely different animal that we really need to take seriously.”
The danger due to the size of the pipeline is exacerbated by its location. Seventy-four percent of MVP crosses high landslide risk terrain, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) final environmental impact statement. This is an unusually high number of extremely steep slopes and landslide and earthquake prone areas for a pipeline to cross. This reality increases the risk of pipeline rupture and therefore increases the risk of explosion.
MVP has caused landslides during construction – and it’s not even in operation. MVP opponent Jon Sokolow reported on a particularly gruesome incident in 2019, stating that the photos reveal criminal acts by the pipeline due to their disregard for public safety. The MVP sent a letter to FERC admitting that it had failed to stop land in Wetzel County, West Virginia from moving for three months. This landslide resulted in at least one home being deemed “unsafe to be occupied” by the company itself.
MVP is notorious for being reckless with their 42-inch diameter pipe. They leave pipes out in the sun for much longer than industry standards. This causes the pipe coating to degrade and leaves the pipe vulnerable to corrosion. The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has raised concerns about the aging sections of pipe that have been left above ground for years, as well as the land’s unstable and steep terrain. They say the result of MVP exploding would be catastrophic.
Impacted landowner and fierce MVP opponent Maury Johnson said to Inside Climate News, if the pipeline exploded, “I’ll be dust. I’ll be ashes.”
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protections has fined MVP a total of $569,000 for erosion and sedimentation issues in the past few years. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality fined MVP $2.15 million in 2019 for violating its water quality certification by not controlling sediment and stormwater runoff.
Landowners and community members across the route continually report severe erosion and flooding on the right-of-way.
The size of the pipeline, the neglect of the pipe, and the messiness of construction all send a single message to the community: “Your safety matters less than our profit.” All of these factors intensify the danger of the high-pressure, large diameter pipe in West Virginia and Virginia.
To add insult to injury, the pipeline is completely unnecessary and unwanted in the community. MVP is tossing human life and the environment’s wellbeing into the pipeline’s path for no reason other than their own greed. We are opposed to this pipeline on every level and we believe we will stop it.