FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Tennessee Valley Authority’s proposed 32-mile Cumberland Pipeline. The decision to give the green light to this dangerous methane gas pipeline project ignores the significant and long-lasting damage it will do to the climate, utility customers, and Tennessee communities.
The sole purpose of the proposed pipeline, which would cut through communities in Dickson, Houston, and Stewart counties, would be to supply methane gas to TVA’s proposed Cumberland Gas Plant. Both the plant and pipeline proposals are part of the federal utility’s massive fossil fuel spending spree.
If built, the new gas plant and pipeline will commit families in the Tennessee Valley to paying expensive fossil fuel prices for decades to come, while doing incredible damage to local communities and the climate.
“FERC commissioners moved to recklessly rubber-stamp this project without fully evaluating the harm this unnecessary pipeline would do to families throughout the Tennessee Valley,” said Amanda Garcia, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “TVA customers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for the federal utility’s multibillion-dollar gas spending spree, especially when investing in clean energy technology is already more cost effective than building new gas plants and pipelines.”
For months, TVA and Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP), the company that would build the proposed pipeline, have pressured FERC into rushing through its approval process, despite the long-lasting impacts that the pipeline would have on nearby communities and waterways.
“Pipeline construction would mean over 155 stream crossings — each one carrying a threat of water contamination and harm to aquatic ecosystems,” said Bri Knisley, the Director of Public Power Campaigns for Appalachian Voices. “This unnecessary pipeline would put local communities like the historic Cumberland Furnace district, the Promise Land Heritage Association, and several century farms at risk of serious damage from construction and long-term safety concerns."
FERC’s approval of the Cumberland Pipeline also undermines important federal climate goals. The Biden administration has issued several executive orders, including some that call for a carbon pollution-free energy grid by 2035 and, more recently, an order seeking to rein in emissions of methane — an incredibly potent climate-warming gas.
The Cumberland Pipeline would work against all of those critical goals. This unnecessary gas pipeline would worsen the climate crisis, create more methane emissions, and handcuff utility customers to dirty fossil fuels well past the federal government’s 2035 deadline.
“Last year was the Earth’s hottest year on record,” said Amy Kelly, Sierra Club Field Organizing Strategist. "It is irresponsible and regressive to permit new fossil-fueled power plants and pipelines that will worsen the climate crisis, create more energy vulnerabilities, and increase electric bills."
The proposed Cumberland Pipeline poses a threat to nearby communities as well. Gas pipelines are inherently risky infrastructure. In 1992, a pipeline explosion in Dickson County injured five people, destroyed three homes, and burned 400 acres of farmland. Last year, an explosion at a gas pipeline facility run by TGP in nearby Hickman County forced around 200 families to evacuate.
The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices, has already challenged a state permit for the Cumberland Pipeline, alleging state officials ignored the significant impacts it will have on local waterways, including wetlands, streams, and reservoirs in the Harpeth River and Cumberland River watersheds. Those groups, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, have also sued TVA over the proposed Cumberland Plant, alleging the utility committed to building the plant before fully evaluating its environmental and climate impacts. Both lawsuits are currently pending in federal court.
Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of 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.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is one of the nation’s most powerful defenders of the environment, rooted in the South. With a long track record, SELC takes on the toughest environmental challenges in court, in government, and in our communities to protect our region’s air, water, climate, wildlife, lands, and people. Nonprofit and nonpartisan, the organization has a staff of 200, including 100 attorneys, and is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., with offices in Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Nashville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of 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.