Regions Southwest Virginia

Mountain Valley Pipeline plan draws criticism

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli
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Map shows the Mountain Valley Pipeline route.

A number of groups in Southwest Virginia are opposing plans for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-mile pipeline, which would transport natural gas from West Virginia into Virginia.

In Virginia, the pipeline would cross Giles, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties. The project is a joint venture between Pennsylvania-based EQT Midstream Partners LP and NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, a subsidiary of Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources Inc.

The Mountain Valley project is one of three natural-gas pipelines currently proposed in the state (the natural gas, however, would not be produced in Virginia). Mountain Valley and the $5 billion, 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline have entered pre-filing requests with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which must approve the projects before construction can begin. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run southeast through Virginia into North Carolina.

Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams Partners LP also wants to expand its Transco interstate pipeline, which already crosses Virginia. The extension would run through Ohio, West Virginia and the commonwealth. A route for that project has not been developed. 

A handout by groups opposing the Mountain Valley Pipeline cites a number of potential problems with the project, including detrimental effects on tourism, agriculture, public safety, the environment and property rights.

If FERC approves the pipeline, the project may take private land along the route, with a court deciding the landowner’s proper compensation — a process known as eminent domain. EQT, however, says it uses eminent domain as a last resort. In an email, company spokeswoman Natalie Cox says, “97 to 98 percent of the time, we are able to come to a mutual agreement with the landowner that compensates them fairly for the use of their land.”

One group attempting to deny EQT access to property along the proposed route is the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy (BRLC), a nonprofit that tries to save land in Western Virginia from future development. The proposed pipeline would run through three properties on which BRLC has conservation easements. BRLC has sent letters to project officials asking them to reroute the pipeline. The company says it has received many rerouting requests and is evaluating those concerns.

EQT believes the pipeline will benefit local economies along its route. A study commissioned by the company says the project is expected to create 4,300 jobs, $396 million in construction spending and $35 million in tax revenue in Virginia from 2015 to 2018.

However, Mark McClain, co-founder of Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition, an environmental group, doesn’t put much stock in the study. The coalition believes the project will generate more natural-gas production and use, increasing carbon pollution. “We believe we should be reducing our use of fossil fuel, not increasing it,” he says.

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