Environmental News Global Warming News Politics

Setback for Senator Manchin’s Mountain Valley Pipeline Deal

Workers inspect a trench exposing a section of pipeline under construction

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) requested the withdrawal of his legislation that would have approved the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Manchin’s legislation, the Energy Independence and Security Act, would have weakened the law on permitting fossil fuel infrastructure projects.

The legislation required the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to “take all necessary actions” to complete the pipeline “without further administrative or judicial delay.” In other words, it would have sped up the construction of the remaining part of the pipeline, which is 94 percent complete. 

Although the withdrawal of the legislation is a setback for the pipeline’s completion, critics are bracing for more action by its proponents. Manchin, who chairs the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has said he will continue to fight for a permitting bill to speed approval of the $6.6 billion pipeline. Chuck Schumer (NY-D) pledged to help speed up the pipeline’s completion in exchange for Manchin’s support of the Inflation Reduction Act

Both Manchin and Schumer received donations from oil and gas companies. Manchin was the biggest recipient of donations from oil and gas companies in 2021 and 2022, receiving a total of $337,710. Schumer is the largest recipient of donations from NextEra Capital Holders, which backs the pipeline, at $283,000 this year. 

The Mountain Valley Pipeline’s Environmental Problems

First proposed in 2014, the Mountain Valley Pipeline is a 303-mile pipeline that would carry fracked gas from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. It brings numerous environmental problems.

Landslides

Around two-thirds of the pipeline’s route is in areas prone to landslides, according to FERC. Landslides caused at least five gas pipeline explosions in the region from 2018 to 2019. One section of the installed pipeline shifted in at least three locations due to land slippages. 

Water Impacts

The pipeline crosses 1,108 bodies of water. There are three significant aquifers and one source water protection area. Thirty-three of the bodies of water are classified as fisheries of special concern. In 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency advised the Army Corps of Engineers not to grant a federal water permit for the pipeline because of “substantial concerns” about its impact on streams and rivers. Construction of the pipeline disturbs around 4,189 acres of soil classified as having the potential for severe water erosion.

Climate Change

The pipeline will emit almost 90 million metric tons, which is equivalent to 26 coal plants or 19 million passenger vehicles, according to Oil Change International. It will be the largest greenhouse gas emitter in Virginia once fully operational. The pipeline will also emit methane, as pipelines are prone to methane leaks. Methane is a greenhouse gas with a warming potential 86 times that of carbon dioxide. 

Environmental Justice

The pipeline’s proposed compressor station in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, is “within five miles of four environmental justice communities with strong African American and American Indian roots,” according to Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Residents are already dealing with the pollution from the existing Transco Compressor Station. A study found that many pipelines are located in “socially vulnerable” areas. There is a link between cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and living near a pipeline. There are 117 residences within 50 feet of the pipeline’s proposed right-of-way. 

“Polluters have been working hard to silence low-income communities and communities of color, and they’re failing,” said John Bowman, managing director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). 


Image credit: ProPublica under creative commons license 

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