News: Cooper vetoes bill that would rubber-stamp MVP Southgate

Gov. Roy Cooper today vetoed H600, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2023, which would benefit polluting entities at the expense of North Carolina’s water quality and vulnerable communities. Specifically, HB600 would have rubber-stamped the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate project, a plan to extend the MVP mainline for 73 miles into North Carolina, from Virginia.

By expediting the permitting process for the proposed Southgate extension, HB600 would weaken and restrict the 401 water quality permit, limiting  timelines and opportunities for public input. Since the project was first announced in 2018, the proposed MVP Southgate’s 401 permit has been denied three times by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). H600 would tip the scales in favor of MVP Southgate, as well as future destructive, polluting proposals across the state. 

The Southgate project has seen overwhelming public opposition, including pushback from community leaders, grassroots groups, and state and federal legislators from North Carolina and Virginia. Governor Cooper himself submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in July, opposing a three-year extension MVP requested in June. 

In addition to accelerating the permitting process for energy distribution projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate extension, the bill threatens public water supplies with five provisions that rollback stormwater regulations. Another provision would have allowed industry to undertake animal composting and rendering activities without environmental permits, while  preventing DEQ from denying or modifying permits in order to comply with the federal civil rights laws, which are intended to protect all North Carolinians from environmental injustice.

Cynthia Satterfield, Sierra Club’s North Carolina Chapter Director, issued the following statement in response to Cooper's veto:

"We thank Governor Cooper for taking a stand against this legislation which protects industry over people. By vetoing this bill, Governor Cooper demonstrates his continued commitment to a healthy environment and a clean energy economy that will bring jobs while protecting our state’s most vulnerable citizens."

Cooper also vetoed S678, Clean Energy/Other Changes, a bill that would have rewritten the state's definition of clean energy to include nuclear power. Both measures now return to the General Assembly for potential override votes.