NC Denies Pipeline Project Permit Due to Water Quality and Project Risks

Mountain Valley Pipeline Map via Roanoke Times

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) on Monday rejected the permit application of the MVP Southgate natural gas pipeline project, a $458M, 75-mile extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) that would cross numerous water bodies.  The agency determined that the pipeline’s construction would unduly risk “critical drinking water” supplies and “high-quality” freshwater resources in the state.  The NC DEQ also cited the risk of allowing the Southgate portion to be completed while the fate of the main Mountain Valley 300-mile mainline project, which is being built to move fracked natural gas from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, is uncertain due to pending federal permits.

Why This Matters: This is yet another blow to the natural gas and pipeline industries.  With the entire MVP system in jeopardy, the fracked gas that would have moved through this pipeline will now have to be delivered some other way or go somewhere else.  The state also is working to wean itself from fossil fuels — under the leadership of Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, they have a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.  Without that policy in place, or if the Governor were a Republican, perhaps this pipeline would have been approved.  Elections do matter.

Why Take the Risk

The MVP pipeline is awaiting a biological opinion from the Fish and Wildlife Service required by the Endangered Species Act, and the project also needs a right-of-way permit from the Forest Service, according to E&E News.  The NC DEQ relied heavily on the fact that in its application, the pipeline company said it would begin construction on the MVP Southgate project immediately once all necessary permits are in place, irrespective of the completeness of the MVP Mainline project. The Agency decided that “[a]pproving construction activities and thereby allowing the most adverse environmental impacts – without certainty of the project’s utility upon completion – is inconsistent with principles of minimization” and thus denied the permit.  MVP had a history of violations that probably also was a factor.  The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) noted that MVP has paid over $2 million in penalties as a result of more than 300 water quality violations alleged by both Virginia and West Virginia.

Sends a Signal on EJ

Luis Martinez, Director of Southeast Energy at NRDC (Natural Resource Defense Council) said in a statement,

“The state has made clear that dangerous gas pipelines that threaten rivers, streams, wetlands, and other priceless water resources have no place in North Carolina. Denying this key permit is a decisive victory for water quality, the environment and the health and safety of North Carolinians. This decision demonstrates that North Carolina can and must quit its harmful addiction to dirty fossil fuels. MVP Southgate has always been a bad deal for North Carolinians – it should be shelved for good.”

And Crystal Cavalier, a citizen of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, an indigenous activist told NC Policy Watch that the MVP Southgate pipeline would have run through indigenous family lands and possibly even Indian burial mounds near waterways along the route of the MVP.  She told NC Policy Watch, “I’m so excited that North Carolina is taking a stand for indigenous people. Because once you dig up this land, you can’t renew it.”

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