WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Late yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) to halt construction activities along the entire 303-mile route of the project. FERC’s order is in response to the project losing key permits under the Endangered Species Act, and allows MVP to do only the work necessary to stabilize the right-of-way in previously disturbed areas. This represents a significant challenge to a project that is already facing numerous hurdles and self-inflicted wounds, including the announcements last week that MVP must pay a multi-million dollar fine and had two of their necessary permits revoked.
However, FERC’s action falls short of its enforcement responsibilities in two crucial areas: FERC leaves it up to MVP to define what they consider “stabilization,” and FERC appears to allow MVP to self-regulate on whether such activities would harass, harm, or kill endangered species. MVP has already shown they will try to get around a construction suspension by defining some pipeline construction activities as necessary for stabilization, and this order appears to allow MVP to determine for themselves the extent to which these activities continue to harm endangered species.
The project has been controversial since it was first announced, and a petition against it and the nearby Atlantic Coast Pipeline launched just two months ago has already garnered over 75,000 signatures.
In response, Sierra Club Senior Attorney Elly Benson released the following statement:
"MVP has repeatedly violated environmental safeguards, clean water protections, and plain common sense in their construction of this fracked gas pipeline. We have known all along that their plans for this pipeline are disastrous for the endangered species, streams, and communities in its path, and we’re glad to see FERC finally order them to stop construction along the entire route. However, FERC must not allow MVP to continue installing pipeline under the guise of stabilization, as MVP has been doing under the limited suspension put in place in August.
“We know we can’t trust the polluting corporations behind this dirty, dangerous pipeline to do what’s best for wildlife, the climate, or our communities, so FERC must not allow MVP to determine the extent to which their work continues to harm endangered species. Letting MVP self-police on defining ‘stabilization’ and harming endangered species is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse - it’s an abdication of FERC’s responsibilities.”
David Sligh, Conservation Director for Wild Virginia said:
“The command that Mountain Valley cease all construction immediately is appropriate and necessary to meet the law. However, FERC has previously allowed work that is clearly construction to be done under the guise that it is ‘stabilization.’ The Commission must now act responsibly and clearly prohibit all activities that are not absolutely necessary to protect the environment. FERC must no longer play deceptive games that allow further destruction from a project that cannot protect our resources and may never be completed.”
Anne Havemann, General Counsel, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said:
“As we've said all along, MVP must stop all construction on this project before even more damage is done. We're glad to see FERC implement the court's decision and order an immediate stop to construction. We further urge the Commission to make it absolutely clear that construction under the guise of stabilization will not be allowed.”
Jason Rylander, Senior Endangered Species Counsel, Defenders of Wildlife, said:
“FERC’s stop work order is welcome news, but the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline should never have been approved without rigorous review of the impacts of this environmentally damaging project on local people, wildlife, and the climate. Fast tracking projects like this is always a mistake and now the chickens are coming home to roost.”
Peter Anderson, Virginia Program Manager, Appalachian Voices:
“FERC’s order to cease Mountain Valley Pipeline construction is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t undo the harm that has been wrought over the past year and a half, as water resources, forests, farms and habitat have been destroyed by illegal construction practices. FERC should not trust MVP to interpret what is appropriate ‘stabilization’ for this unnecessary project; it is in the developer’s interest to keep plowing ahead. Rather, FERC must comply with the Endangered Species Act and ensure MVP does not harm any listed species.”
Roberta Bondurant, Member of Preserve Bent Mountain said:
“The public deserves FERC’s exacting and credible review of MVP’s status report and any continuing activity on the right of way. Monitors will continue to vigilantly report MVP activity — whether or not in the guise of ‘stabilization’ — that degrades habitat of threatened and endangered species or is otherwise outside FERC and Fourth Circuit directives.”
Jared Margolis, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity said:
“We’re relieved pipeline construction is stopped for now, but this climate and wildlife killing project should be permanently scrapped. A polluting fossil fuel pipeline has no place in today’s world.”
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.
About the Center for Biological Diversity
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.