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Created on: 2017-05-29 10:30:40
Last update: 2019-10-25 12:08:31 BankTrack & Oil Change International
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About Mountain Valley Pipeline
The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is a proposed high-pressure pipeline that would carry fracked gas 303 miles from north-western West Virginia to south central Virginia. The project was originally budgeted at USD 3.5 billion, though estimated costs have now risen to almost USD 5 billion. The pipeline is a joint venture of EQT Midstream Partners (45.5%), NextEra Energy Resources (31%), Con Edison Transmission (12.5%), WGL Midstream (10%) and RGC Midstream (1%). The route of the pipeline crosses the Allegheny Highlands, threatening pristine forests, headwaters and steep, fragile terrain, as well as many residential communities, farms, and other properties all along its route. The project is facing significant opposition from landowners and residents along its path.
In June 2014, EQT Corporation and NextEra US Gas Assets (a subsidiary of NextEra Energy), announced the commencement of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, which is designed to connect Marcellus and Utica natural gas supply to markets in the south-east United States. EQT Midstream, an affiliate of EQT, will operate the pipeline and owns the largest stake in the joint venture. Meanwhile, EQT, the largest gas producer in the region, is signed up to use nearly 65% of the pipeline's capacity.
The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project on June 23, 2017, finally approved the pipeline on October 13, 2017. The pipeline has faced strong opposition of various kinds, including blockades, mass rallies, and regulatory and legal challenges. As a result, the company has pushed back the expected completion date to mid-2020. In August 2019, a Virginia state regulator issued a stop-work order to the company due to the lack of erosion-control measures, risking local water quality. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has also required the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to re-open consultation regarding its permit for the pipeline in relation to endangered species protection.
What must happen
Private banks must withdraw from financing they have already committed, and refuse any further financial support to the project. Until this happens, they face ongoing pressure, including a call from Appalachian organizers to divest from these banks.
The pipeline is strongly opposed by residents along the route; the quarter-mile blast radius of the proposed pipeline puts many people in danger. Construction work has already demonstrated the risks to local groundwater reservoirs, a major concern for communities who depend on these reserves.
Impacts on landowners The threat of “eminent domain”, where the company benefits from the government’s right to acquire property against the wishes of landowners, has been widely used in this project. This has damaged people’s farming enterprises, jeopardizing their economic livelihoods. The company building the pipeline has sued landowners in order to force them to provide access to their land for construction surveying. Opponents of the pipeline have faced intense criminalization; including peaceful blockaders facing terrorism charges. According to critics, helicopters nominally used to seed anti-erosion pellets have created “an atmosphere of constant surveillance and intimidation.” On July 19 2019, construction crews dug up a tree stump which rolled down the hill towards protestors, narrowly missing them.
Climate change impacts A report from OilChange International and BOLD Alliance in February 2017 estimated the climate changing pollution from the MVP would be equivalent to 26 coal plants or 19 million passenger vehicles. These emissions come from the combustion of the gas carried by the pipeline, the emission from methane (a gas with much more severe climate impacts than CO2) which inevitably leaks throughout the gas supply chain, emissions from gas extraction, compression and processing. The expansion of pipeline capacity will enable and incentivize the production of fracked gas, with grave impacts for the local communities near fracking wells and the climate more generally. The loss of forest cover (as a result of tree-clearing for the pipeline) may also contribute to the pipeline’s climate impact.
Local environmental impacts The pipeline also has major local environmental implications. Erosion, mudslides and soil disturbances have been a major problem during construction, as documented by Mountain Valley Watch; this has led to massive influxes of mud to waterways, threatening local animal and plant life, some of which are endangered species. One expert noted of an 8 acre landslide that “events like this are almost expected; MVP chose to route…this titanic 42-inch diameter, 303-mile pipeline across several hundred of miles of “high landslide potential” areas.” The Virginia department of environmental quality sued the company building the pipeline in December 2018 for “repeated erosion, sediment and stormwater violations.” The route has 986 waterbody crossings, leading to concerns about ongoing water contamination, including from chemically-coated pipes which have sat outside for long periods of time due to construction delays. Groups have sought to halt the project on the grounds of the threat it poses to fish, bats and plants in the region, including designated endangered species (see Appalachian Voices for more detail).
Applicable norms and standards
FERC gives the go ahead to Mountain Valley Pipeline
On October 13, 2017, FERC granted approval for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. FERC endorsed the 42-inch diameter buried pipeline, slated to transport natural gas extracted by hydraulic fracturing in the Appalachian Basin (The Roanoke Times).
FERC's final environmental impact statement for Mountain Valley Pipeline elicits controversy
The federal agency that decides the fate of interstate natural gas pipeline projects declared on June the 23rd that the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline “would result in limited adverse environmental impacts, with the exception of impacts on forest” — a conclusion project opponents said offers additional evidence of the agency’s bias toward approving pipelines (The Roanoke Times).
Groups challenge W.Va. certification for proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline
Richmond, VA — Environmental groups filed suit today challenging West Virginia’s certification for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would transport fracked gas across West Virginia and Virginia. The proposed 300-mile, 42-inch pipeline would cross primarily undeveloped, rural agricultural and forested lands. The project would fragment the heart of one of the largest remaining wild landscapes in the United States, cutting through national forest land and the Appalachian Trail and crossing more than 1,000 streams and wetlands and several major rivers in its path (appvoices.org).
AppalMad and Sierra Club File Rebuttal to Mountain Valley Pipeline Claims
Karst geology experts have strongly condemned Mountain Valley Pipeline’s Draft Environmental Impact submittals to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regarding pipeline construction in sensitive karst terrain (landscapes formed from the dissolution of soluble rock). A 14 page rebuttal, prepared by Ernst Kastning and submitted on behalf of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club by Appalachian Mountain Advocates attorneys Benjamin Luckett and Joseph Lovett describes the risks to Southwest Virginia and West Virginia communities from pipeline construction. Damage would include groundwater contamination, groundwater recharge, surface collapse and other dangerous consequences of building a massive infrastructure project in a seismic area populated with caves and sinkholes.
Environmental Impact Statement delayed
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said in a notice that it is pushing back its environmental review schedule for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and related Equitrans Expansion Project (EEP) by a little over three months (NGI).
The clearest way to answer the question of who is financing the Mountain Valley Pipeline is to look at the finance for EQT Midstream Partners (EQM). EQM is the largest investor and the driving force behind the pipeline. A report from Oil Change/BOLD Alliance concludes that the 18 banks behind EQM's USD 750 million revolving credit facility from February 2014, and the 11 banks that purchased notes from its November 2016 USD 500 million bond offering, are the banks most closely linked to EQM's financing of the pipeline. More details on the banks financing EQM is provided below.