By Diana Christopulos
Christopulos is a local environmental activist. She lives in Salem.
This newspaper has asked many questions about Mountain Valley Pipeline, but not these:
For Gov. Northam: Why won’t you acknowledge that the Federal Clean Water Act enables Virginia to deny water permits to pipelines if they would violate state water quality standards, which both the MVP and Atlantic Coast Pipeline clearly would do? New York and Connecticut have successfully stopped three federally-approved gas pipelines using this authority.
For the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality: Why are the City of Roanoke and all other downstream communities being denied standing to comment when MVP’s own reports show that pollution from the project will cost Roanoke taxpayers more than $36 million per year to clean up after construction? Who pays that bill? MVP’s mitigation agreement with Virginia provides only $7.5 million for all damage done to Virginia waters during the life of the project.
For those who are thinking about working on the pipeline: Is this a safe place to work? MVP selected Precision Pipeline to build the project in Virginia. The Roanoke Times has already reported on its extremely poor environmental record. According to Occupational Health and Safety (OSHA) records, workers have died on Precision Pipeline projects in 2010, 2012, and 2016 and been severely injured in 2010 and 2011. On the Ruby Pipeline in Nevada, workers were forced to continue in dangerous, icy conditions, resulting in one worker death and significant injuries to eight others.
A union pipeline builder from our region told me that he would not work on MVP, even though he preferred to stay close to home, because it would be too dangerous. Landowners on the MVP route reported to OSHA that tree cutters were working in winds exceeding 50 mph, but no action was taken. Don’t expect regulators at any level to protect you if you are working on this project.
For the U.S. Forest Service: Do you trust Precision Pipeline/MVP to build across the six High Hazard areas identified in Jefferson National Forest? They have very steep slopes, landslide-prone soil and earthquake activity, and any rainfall multiplies the risks. Did you know that Precision created 50 landslides on a smaller 55-mile pipeline that it just built for Dominion in West Virginia on much gentler terrain?
For Roanoke Gas and the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce: While opposed by conservative county boards of supervisors in Giles, Craig, Montgomery and Roanoke counties, as well as numerous landowner, conservation and recreation groups, the project has been vocally supported by Roanoke Gas (a 1 percent owner of MVP) and the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber endorsed MVP “in cooperation with property owners, and with the utmost safety and with respect for the environment and our region’s beauty.”
Is MVP really cooperating with landowners? In Virginia, more than 300 landowners were forced to allow MVP on their property through federal court action. Now they report repeated failures of erosion controls, massive dust clouds, downed trees in creek beds, and reckless driving and speeding by MVP vehicles. Some residents are already abandoning homes that have been in their families for generations.
As for safety — would Roanoke Gas build a pipeline without including odorant so that leaks could be detected? Natural gas is odorless and colorless, yet MVP would build this pipeline with no odorant. It would leak, because all pipelines leak. The leaks would be undetectable to anyone on the ground. If it fails, the area of destruction would be 2,200 feet to 3 miles wide, depending on the geology of the location. Is this a safe situation?
Because it shows minimal respect for the environment and protection of the region’s beauty, the project has long been opposed by organizations that have studied the details, including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Wild Virginia and Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
Finally, if the project does get built, who would pay the millions of dollars required for hooking up the pipeline to local supply lines? Local ratepayers? Can you promise that a noisy compressor station would not be built near the Roanoke River and I 81? Can you promise that it would not be run on natural gas, further polluting local air quality? And when it fails, causing widespread damage and potentially disastrous wildfires, who would pay for that?
Editor's note: Typo corrected June 7.