The Haw and Dan rivers are in the crosshairs of the MVP Southgate project, a natural gas pipeline that, if state environmental regulators approve a permit, would cross the equivalent of four miles of sensitive waterways that contribute to the drinking water supply.
Mountain Valley, LLC, composed of NextEra Energy, EQT Midstream Partners and Con Edison, has applied for a water quality certification, also known as a 401, from the NC Department of Environmental Quality. The pipeline cannot be built without this key certification and a related approval, called a 404, from the US Army Corps of Engineers.
DEQ is accepting public comment on the 401 application through Friday at 5 p.m.
The MVP Southgate project is an extension of the main Mountain Valley Pipeline. It begins at a fracked gas operation in far northern West Virginia, near the Ohio and Pennsylvania borders, and travels through Virginia. From there, the southern extension would enter North Carolina near Eden, in Rockingham County, and continue 46 miles southeast before ending near Haw River, in Alamance County.
In total, the project would cross 207 streams, three ponds and temporarily affect 17,726 linear feet of streams, 6,538 square feet of open waters, and 14 acres of wetlands; another 0.02 of an acre of wetlands would be permanently damaged. Nearly 14 acres of riparian buffers would also be affected. All of these impacts would occur within the Jordan Lake watershed.
These are only the projected impacts to waterways; there would be additional forest clearcutting and habitat fragmentation.
Written comments must be received by Division of Water no later than 5 p.m. on Friday Dec. 20, 2019. Mail them to 401 Permitting, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC, 27699-1617. Written comments may also be submitted via email to: [email protected] Please include “MVP Southgate” in the email’s subject line.
According to the company’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the pipeline would cross the Dan River, already injured by the 2014 coal ash disaster, as well as tributaries to the flood-prone Haw River, which is polluted with emerging contaminants such as 1,4-dioxane. The Haw also has problems with excessive sedimentation, which degrades water quality.
Construction of the MVP will use about 6 million gallons of water, but the DEIS does not pinpoint the source, which prevents federal regulators from assessing the environmental effects of those withdrawals.
In some locations, contractors would use horizontal directional drilling. This involves drilling beneath the waterway, and presents its own environmental risks to the drinking water supply and aquatic life. Intense pressure within the drill bore can result in a “frac-out,” industry lingo for a spill of water, clay and chemicals.
Yesterday, nearly 40 state lawmakers sent a letter to DEQ Secretary Michael Regan asking the agency to reject the company’s application. “It would cause tremendous sedimentation and erosion in streams, rivers and wetlands and destroy habitats for federally and state-protective wildlife,” the letter reads.
Lawmakers also invoked Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 80, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in North Carolina to 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Natural gas contains methane, a potent greenhouse gas and driver of climate change.
“We do not believe that granting MVP’s application is appropriate. At a minimum, DEQ must request MVP to conduct a robust analysis of alternatives, including non-gas energy alternatives, such as wind and solar.”
Earlier this year, DEQ rejected MVP’s 401 application because it lacked critical information. And last year, DEQ Assistant Secretary Sheila Holman filed comments with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission questioning the necessity of the project.