Half of workforce released

Becky Crabtree of Lindside leads protesters against the Mountain Valley Pipeline in this 2018 file photo.

UNION — With the cancellation of the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) because of ongoing court battles, opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) that impacts local counties are “cautiously optimistic” that project may be stopped as well.

On Sunday, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy announced the 600-mile natural gas ACP will not happen, cancelling the project that would have transported natural gas from the Marcellus Shale natural gas field in North Central West Virginia to Lumberton, N.C.

Reasons cited for ending the project, on which an estimated $4 billion has already been spent, centered on “legal uncertainty.”

In a joint statement, Tom Farrell, president and CEO of Richmond-based Dominion, and Lynn Good, who holds the same positions at Duke, said they “regret that we will be unable to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

“For almost six years, we have worked diligently and invested billions of dollars to complete the project and deliver the much needed infrastructure, to our customers and communities,” Farrell and Good said. “This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States. Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged.”

The MVP is a 42-inch diameter pipeline that is slated to carry natural gas from the same north central West Virginia operations to Chatham, Va., running through Summers and Monroe Counties in West Virginia and Giles County in Virginia.

Both pipelines have been met with protests and lawsuits, citing regulatory and permitting failures, environmental impact issues, questions about the appropriateness of using eminent domain, as well as the danger of explosions.

First felony charge

An Appalachians Against Pipelines drone took this shot of the location of a 2019 protester along the Mountain Valley Pipeline path in Monroe County. In the background is the town of Lindside.

For Monroe County landowner Maury Johnson, it’s a matter of fighting for the environment and individual rights.

Johnson has fought the MVP since it first surfaced in 2014 and is an executive committee member of the POWHR ( Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights) coalition.

“Today is a great day for those people who have devoted their lives to educating the public and fighting for their water, air, and property, and to lead the way to a cleaner energy future,” Johnson said Monday. “But the job is only half finished. Today we enjoy this victory, but tomorrow we must double down our efforts, pull together and send MVP and the MVP Southgate to the scrap heap of bad ideas with the ACP.”

Another Monroe County resident and landowner, Becky Crabtree, lost a fight to avoid granting an easement to the MVP to bury the pipeline across her and her husband’s property as the company used the eminent domain process.

Crabtree welcomed the ACP news, but agrees the MVP is still a challenge.

“The end of the ACP is terrific news but I have learned to be cautiously optimistic awaiting the next action,” she said. “I am grateful for those who have protected the earth and helped force this decision. If this pipeline is truly done (ended), my heart fills with joy for the people on the ACP path, their fields and forests, water and air.”

Crabtree said the projects are all about money.

“Here in Monroe County, we live near the path of the MVP,” she said. “Officials from this pipeline have misled our communities and leaders about jobs and big local benefits. We are seemingly disposable people whose land is taken for MVP profit. My prayer is that the demise of ACP heralds the end of MVP and their quest for the almighty dollar on the backs of the people and the God-given glorious resources of West Virginia and Virginia.”

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) issued a statement Monday applauding the decision.

“The cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project is great news for Virginia,” he said. “This project would have invested billions of dollars in natural gas infrastructure that we simply do not need. Going forward, I strongly encourage Dominion Energy and its partners to increase their investments in clean energy sources that will reduce Virginia’s contributions to climate change, which remains an enormous threat to our Commonwealth.”

Beyer said the MVP is not needed either.

“I remain concerned, however, about the prospect of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would have harmful impacts on the environment, and threaten the destruction of key sections and vistas on the Appalachian Trail,” he said. “Virginians do not need or want this pipeline.”

But elected leaders in West Virginia expressed disappointment at the decision to cancel the ACP.

Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) released statements citing the economic benefits lost because the project will not move forward.

“I’m disappointed to learn plans to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have been cancelled.” Manchin said. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline project took meaningful steps to ensure the pipeline was safely constructed and the Appalachian Trail and surrounding areas were protected. The pipeline would have created good paying construction and manufacturing jobs for hard working West Virginians, reinvested in our energy markets increasing our domestic energy supply, and strengthened national security with reliable energy to key military installations. Today’s announcement is yet another reminder of why it is critically important we work together to find a responsible balance between the environment and economy. We must take steps to modernize our nation’s energy policy by passing the bipartisan American Energy Innovation Act.”

“This project would have allowed for the expanded supplies of natural gas for residential and commercial heating and electricity generation, which would have provided affordable energy for residents and businesses while also spurring economic development,” Capito said. “West Virginia is energy rich, and we should make it easier to use energy resources produced right here at home to meet demand across the country.”

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey expressed “deep disappointment” the ACP is now over.

He recently successfully led a coalition of states to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to overturn a lower court’s decision on denying a permit to cross (underneath) the Appalachian Trail, a decision that had national implications regarding the crossing of designated trails.

“My office helped lead the fight to reopen the pipeline at the U.S. Supreme Court and currently leads efforts to reverse the flawed national injunction to further limit construction on pipelines that recently came out of a Montana district court,” Morrisey said, referring to a recent decision related to the Keystone XL pipeline.

A federal judge revoked a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for water crossings and suspended all work on the crossing until it is compliant with the Endangered Species Act.

 

“The concept of one district court judge paralyzing the construction of pipelines across our country is very disconcerting,” Morrisey said of the Keystone decision, a legal issue also cited in the ACP decision. “My office will look even more closely at this matter and will keep up our all-in fight for West Virginia jobs. We should not and must not quit fights like these.”

Morrisey said that case has, in effect, brought a “sudden and unexpected halt to construction projects far beyond the matter in question.”

“The lower court transformed a case challenging application of a permit on one pipeline project into a nationwide injunction affecting new oil and gas pipelines in every state, including West Virginia — no matter their length, purpose or minimal environmental effects,” he said. “This decision hurts real, everyday working people. The Supreme Court should pause this terrible order before it has far-reaching effects.”

The original lawsuit focused upon a permit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, he said. Instead, the coalition argues the district court order inappropriately used that issue to strike down all projects that employed the same permitting process.

Morrisey said his coalition of states “contend the district court ruling will make needed infrastructure projects significantly more costly and time-consuming — and potentially render some completely unfeasible.”

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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