Now that MVP Southgate has submitted its official 582-page application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build a new natural gas pipeline in North Carolina, opponents are increasing their pressure on state and local officials to stop the project.
MVP Southgate would be an extension of the larger Mountain Valley Pipeline project, now on hold after an appellate court recently vacated several federal permits for stream crossings. Should MVP Southgate be constructed, it would transport fracked gas originating in northwestern West Virginia, through southern Virginia and then bore for more than 40 miles into North Carolina, where it would enter near Eden in Rockingham County and end in Haw River in Alamance County. MVP Southgate submitted its filing on Nov. 6.
Thousands of North Carolinians, including environmental groups and even the Alamance County Commissioners, have submitted public comments opposing the project. The reasons are voluminous: The pipeline would cross private land, including centuries-old family farms, that would be subject to eminent domain; it would present safety issues for residents in the “blast zone” — the area vulnerable to loss of life and property damage in the unlikely, but not unheard of event of an explosion.
The pipeline would permanently and temporarily destroy sensitive ecosystems by crossing wetlands and streams and deforesting parts of the right-of-way along the route.. It would carve a path under the Dan River, using a horizontal drilling method that could spill chemicals and mud into the waterway. It would hug the Haw River, jeopardizing sensitive buffers that filter pollution and provide wildlife habitat.
And on a global scale, MVP Southgate, like its counterpart in eastern North Carolina, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, would leak methane, a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. (The governor’s executive order on climate change, which sets goals for clean energy and reductions in carbon dioxide, doesn’t mention methane from natural gas pipelines.)
All of this for a project that is almost certainly unnecessary.We remain unconvinced that the Southgate project is necessary Click To Tweet
Opponents have long maintained that central and western North Carolina are adequately served by existing pipelines that crisscross beneath the region. And detailed maps of the MVP Southgate project that accompany the filing often show where it would parallel the Transco pipeline.
In a Nov. 5 letter to FERC, the NC Department of Environmental Quality wrote that, “as of this date we have been unable to determine whether there exists an overarching need and demand … for the Southgate project as proposed. We remain unconvinced that the Southgate project is necessary.” (Scroll to the end of the story to read the entire letter.)
According to DEQ’s figures, even accounting for the area’s population growth, MVP Southgate would increase availability of natural gas by 100 percent — far exceeding the needs of the region. Other discrepancies prompted DEQ to ask FERC to conduct an independent review of the data.
In its strongly worded letter, signed by Assistant Secretary Sheila Holman, DEQ also said that the federal standard for approval “protects only MVP’s interests.”
Behind MVP Southgate is consortium of publicly traded corporations with Orwellian names that say nothing about what they really do: NextEra, EQT and WGL and RGC Midstream. The familiar Con Edison is in on the deal, and should a sale go through, Dominion Energy, the major owner of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to be constructed in eastern North Carolina.
The project has already been modified since its inception. Most notably, a proposed natural gas compressor station near Eden has been scrapped. The diameter of the pipeline in North Carolina has also decreased from 36 inches to 24 inches, although there is no indication the pressure to transport the gas has decreased.
“We will continue to work with state agencies and impacted communities to prevent this unnecessary project from impacting our land, air, and water quality,” says Emily Sutton, Haw Riverkeeper with Haw River Assembly. “The Haw River currently faces industrial and sediment pollution from many sources, and adding a fracked gas pipeline would further degrade this threatened watershed, which is a water source for nearly one million people downstream.”
Even before the official filing MVP Southgate and its contractors have clashed with local landowners along the route. Land agents have reportedly trespassed, bullied, harassed and coerced private property owners to submit to surveys of their land. The Haw River Assembly said MVP Southgate has indicated it plans to work with local law enforcement to obtain a court order to survey parcels that landowners have denied access for the project.
Dominion and Duke Energy used similar tactics to access land along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. However, after several appearances in federal court, Marvin Winstead, who owns land in Nash County, has still fended off the surveyors.
MVP Southgate plans to operate the pipeline by late 2020. However, that timeline is ambitious. Last week’s filing with FERC triggers formal environmental reviews and public hearings. The consortium will need numerous federal and state permits. It’s also likely that environmental groups will sue to halt the project.