The U.S. Forest Service has authorized Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC to survey additional sections of the Jefferson National Forest in Giles and Montgomery counties as the company works to identify a preferred route for its controversial natural gas pipeline.
Tom Speaks, Roanoke County-based supervisor for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, said in a news release that authorizing the surveying “does not mean I am allowing the construction of a pipeline across the Jefferson National Forest.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will decide whether construction of the 300-mile, 42-inch diameter natural gas transmission pipeline should proceed. Mountain Valley has said it plans to submit its application to FERC this month.
Speaks has previously authorized route surveying by Mountain Valley in other portions of the Jefferson National Forest.
The latest authorization allows surveying of a short segment along a newly acquired tract of land on Peters Mountain in Giles County, a 1.8-mile segment across Sinking Creek and Brush Mountain in Montgomery County, and a 6-mile section along Pocahontas Road that would provide access to the Peters Mountain route in Giles County.
Pipeline opponents have said Mountain Valley’s plan to route the buried pipeline through steep, rocky and mountainous terrain raises concerns about erosion and sediment and safety. The route could also cross areas of karst landscape, characterized by sinkholes, caves and the like.
On Wednesday, the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy called on Gov. Terry McAuliffe to work with the General Assembly to ensure that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has the resources necessary to monitor pipeline construction if the $3.2 billion project moves forward.
As envisioned, the buried pipeline would transport natural gas at high pressure from West Virginia to the Transco transmission pipeline in Pittsylvania County.
If FERC greenlights the project, Mountain Valley will have access to eminent domain to acquire easements across private properties if negotiations fail to yield an agreeable price. That prospect has been one source of controversy.