UPDATE on MOUNTAIN VALLEY PIPELINE: Corporate Changes and Environmental Violations Prevail

by Duane Nichols on December 7, 2019

Welding operation on 40 inch MVP in WV

Texas construction company no longer working on Mountain Valley Pipeline

From an Article by Jessica Farrish, Beckley Register Herald, December 3, 2019

A Texas corporation that has put down roots in Raleigh County is no longer working on a controversial natural gas pipeline in West Virginia, after the pipeline’s major stakeholder unexpectedly cancelled the Texas company’s contract last month.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a joint project of EQM Midstream Partners LP, Con Edison Transmissions Inc., NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in October halted construction of the 303-mile interstate pipeline pending the outcome of a series of court challenges launched by environmental groups.

In the last week of November, EQM Midstream Partners LP cancelled a work contract for Trinity Energy Services of Argyle, Texas, Trinity spokesman Bob McKibbon verified Monday. “We’ve all been kind of in the dark with it, as far as not much detail,” McKibbon said Monday. “There’s nobody else talking to us about it.”

Mountain Valley began work on the pipeline in February 2018, with partners anticipating the project would be completed by the end of 2019, at a cost of $3.7 billion. In October, Mountain Valley announced plans to have the pipeline operational by mid-2020, at a cost of $5.3 to $5.5 billion.

The company owns a hangar at Raleigh County Memorial Airport and leases a second one, airport manager Tom Cochran. The company also purchases plane fuel locally.

Cochran said Monday that he is hopeful Trinity will stay in Raleigh County. “We appreciate the business that they have offered to us and not only the airport but our community,” said Cochran. “This is going to be felt across the county.

The pipeline is set to cut across 600 streams and more than 400 wetlands along its proposed path from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) had cited Trinity for water safety violation rules in May 2018, according to a report by The Gazette-Mail.

According to the WVDEP complaint, Trinity was cited for unsatisfactory perimeter control and failure to install devices in a timely manner at four sites (Slate Run Road, Route 219 Crossing, “Mr Law’s field” and War Ridge Road) in Wetzel County. Receiving streams were the Ohio River, Fishing Creek, North Fork and Mobley Run, according to the WVDEP complaint.

Investors had planned for Mountain Valley to be finished by the fourth quarter of 2019, but work was temporarily ceased in October by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), due to federal agencies suspending three key sets of permits that is necessary for the project.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently considering whether to re-issue permits that would allow the pipeline to cross more than 1,000 streams in West Virginia and Virginia. Overseen by FERC, the interstate pipeline cuts through 11 state counties, including Fayette, Greenbrier, Nicholas, Summers and Monroe counties, and six Virginia counties. Citizens along its route, including environmental groups, have opposed construction.

In October, FERC ordered all construction to stop immediately while legal challenges are being decided by judges. The pipeline’s developers in October said that it is 90 percent complete but has work ahead in sensitive areas.

Diana Charletta, president and chief operating officer of EQM Midstream Partners, the operator of MVP, acknowledged schedule delays and cost overruns. “We have encountered unforeseen development challenges; however, we continue to make progress towards ultimate completion,” Charletta stated in October.

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MVP pipeline opponents say erosion controls are inadequate

By Joe Dashiell, WSHV, Harrisonburg, VA, November 20, 2019

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) — Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say sediment and erosion controls approved by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality are not protecting water and endangered species.

During a Roanoke news conference they cited conditions near Yellow Finch Lane in Montgomery County. They said citizen monitors documented problems there in the days after the VA-DEQ approved the controls.

“This kind of a project cannot be built without causing both acute and chronic long-term harm to our water resources,” said pipeline opponent Tammy Belinsky.

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Dan River December 8, 2019 at 1:56 am

Public Need’ Argument for Mountain Valley Pipeline Grows Weaker

By ROBERTA BONDURANT and IRENE LEECH Nov 29, 2019

Public need is the core constitutional requirement for the taking of private property in eminent domain. The question of public need for Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) has been questioned since private corporation EQT first proposed it in 2014. The volume of skepticism and public outrage regarding MVP has recently reached a record decibel with new evidence from the State Corporation Commission and EQT/MVP executive decision makers.

Since 2014, economic experts and FERC Commissioners alike have emphasized that FERC failed to evaluate and MVP failed to establish true public “need” in support of FERC certification of natural gas pipeline projects. In February 2017, former FERC Enforcement Chief and Chair Norman Bay questioned the use of “precedent agreements” or shipping contracts, as proof of public need. Bay urged further consideration of additional factors such as assessment of present infrastructure, cost-benefit analysis, market competition and long term economic stability. He warned of the results of overbuild, including stranded assets and economic instability, where producer-shippers are allowed to drive infrastructure development.

In June 2018 dissents on the MVP certificate rehearing appeals, Commissioners Richard Glick and Cheryl LaFleur repeated Bay’s concerns. Glick noted that MVP, a limited liability corporation, had relied solely on agreements with its own affiliates. La Fleur, a career banking and energy official, cited due process offenses by FERC for accepting precedent agreements alone while allowing MVP and affiliates to keep documents embodying those agreements hidden from the public.

The above concerns, as well as direct evidence from communities in the path of MVP, are now before the Commonwealth of Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC). An independent analyst, reviewing the real demographic numbers of local need, recommended against increasing rates — stating “there is little evidence to support that the rate is growing at the rate reported by RGC,” and as such, there appeared to be “no immediate need to expand the size of the natural gas portfolio.” A recently released SCC Hearing Summary raises questions — such as why, after Roanoke Gas has asserted for decades it was not economical to bring natural gas to Franklin County, MVP now makes it financially advisable?”

(RGC Midstream is a 1 percent shareholder in MVP). Indeed, Roanoke Gas company officials in collaboration with MVP appear to have persuaded Montgomery and Franklin County planners and supervisors to commit to the financial and environmental impacts of “taps” for local gas downloads — based upon little-to-no hard demographic evidence. MVP, an out-of-state, limited liability corporation, has thrust what is now a $5.5-billion project upon landowners, ratepayers and communities in Virginia.

MVP’s parent corporation has essentially admitted the ruse of purported stateside need. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Oct. 23 that at a recent shale gas conference, newly-dubbed EQT Chief Toby Rice, grappling with facts that in his three months at the helm, natural gas prices have fallen 15 percent, and corporate stock has dropped 40 percent — pressed a “narrative” of “opportunity” for “growth” in overseas exports. This is what economists and other observers have long predicted regarding MVP gas — that this glut of shale gas was always intended for export.

On Halloween night, EQT announced it would sell its interest in the MVP, and shortly after, Consolidated Edison reported it would cap its investment. The house of cards appears to be falling, with no true demographic of constitutional need, and not even a purported “construct” of need in affiliated shipper contracts.

Questions of need don’t even begin to address why MVP has lost, through federal court and agency action, four major federal permits required to construct its 42-inch high pressure mega pipeline through steep, rugged terrain, pristine streams and fragile wetlands. Nor do they address ongoing civil and criminal investigations or a proposed “consent agreement” with Virginia authorities, not yet accepted by a Henrico County judge.

Involuntarily thrust into a vortex of competing interests in eminent domain are landowners in the path of MVP. They are overwhelmingly rural landowners, hard-working and law-abiding. Many are elderly people of modest means. Nearly 500 were sued at once in October 2017, with MVP asking the government and the courts to force them to sell easements to MVP via “quick take,” settling payment later. From the sale of any easement, landowners commonly pay a percentage to their counsel and taxes, and flat fees to appraiser/experts. Judicial concerns with clearing the case docket have been significantly allayed by court mediation.

As MVP falters, as state agency evidence negates the core constitutional requirement of public need, as the developer advertises its glut for export, why is any eminent domain process against landowners in federal courts actively proceeding? Where, in this mix, is “the interest of justice”?

Bondurant is co-chairwoman of Protect Our Water Heritage Rights Coalition. She lives in Roanoke County. Leech is a member of Preserve Montgomery County. She lives in Montgomery County. This column originally appeared in The Roanoke Times.

https://www.godanriver.com/opinion/columnists/public-need-argument-for-mvp-grows-weaker/article_98c526cb-63fc-5bae-a112-b0e92ca06dfd.html

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