In a move that has drawn significant criticism from climate and Indigenous groups, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted approval on Wednesday for the construction of the partially completed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).
This fracked gas project spans over 300 miles across Virginia and West Virginia, aiming to transport natural gas from West Virginia to Pittsylvania County.
Construction of the pipeline initially began in 2018 but faced numerous legal battles that caused significant delays.
As part of negotiations on raising the debt ceiling, President Joe Biden agreed to let Congress expedite the project, resulting in the approval to restart construction.
Those who stress the need for a swift transition to renewable energy say Biden’s failure to make federal agencies uphold environmental safeguards could significantly shift support to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., an environmental lawyer.
Biden’s failure to tackle the climate crisis involves allowing offshore drilling in an area the size of Italy, permitting the destructive ConocoPhillips Willow drilling project, approving exports of liquefied natural gas from the Alaska LNG project, auctioning four times as many federal oil and gas leases than were issued by the Trump administration, and financing such fossil fuel projects as an Indonesian oil refinery.
RFK, Jr. carried on his family’s legacy of public service by devoting himself to environmental causes and children’s welfare. He is the founder of the Waterkeeper Alliance — the world’s largest clean water advocacy group
TIME Magazine named Kennedy its “Hero for the Planet” for his leadership in the fight to restore the Hudson River.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act, which Biden signed into law on June 3, 2023, included provisions that fast-tracked the project, limited judicial review, and required federal regulators to grant all necessary permits within a few weeks.
While opponents of the pipeline have challenged the constitutionality of that action, MVP requested until July 10 to respond, a timeline that suggests construction could resume before the court takes up the issue.
Critics of the pipeline expressed disappointment with the decision but remain steadfast in their opposition.
Various environmental organizations and advocates criticize the pipeline’s approval.
They argue that it represents a climate and environmental justice disaster, leading to emissions equivalent to building 26 new coal plants or adding 19 million passenger vehicles to the road. Concerns have also been raised regarding public health and safety, drinking water contamination, and the overall environmental impact.
“The Biden administration just greenlit a reckless, unnecessary fossil fuel project during a deadly heat wave caused by climate change,” said Russell Chisholm, managing director of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights Coalition (POWHR).
“The destruction wrought by this pipeline on our planet and communities is President Biden’s climate legacy,” said Chisholm. “The gas from the pipeline is unnecessary, the permanent local jobs provided are minimal, the endangerment to precious species is irreversible, water sources will be polluted, and earthquake and landslide-prone areas stand in its wake. We are devastated but we will never give up on protecting our home.”
“President Joe Biden’s administration has once again failed to live up to its climate commitments by approving the pipeline during a deadly heatwave caused by climate change,” said environmentalist Lisa McCormick. “The pipeline’s destructive impact on the planet and communities will be part of President Joe Biden’s climate legacy.”
“The Biden administration is paving the way to a future in which extreme weather is a greater risk but until America and the rest of the world are almost entirely powered by renewable energy, these climate-related events will become more catastrophic,” said McCormick.
Roberta Bondurant of Bent Mountain, Virginia—a vocal MVP opponent—called the situation “a promise of random explosion… somewhere along the 300 miles of this ticking pipe bomb.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a longtime supporter of the pipeline and recipient of fossil fuel campaign funding, celebrated FERC’s decision.
The pipeline’s developer, Mountain Valley, expressed its anticipation for the project’s continuation and its aim to provide reliable and affordable natural gas, contributing to state and national goals of lowering carbon emissions.
Notably, climate campaigners, experts, manufacturers, and safety advocates have recently expressed concerns about the durability of the pipeline segments due to their exposure to the elements for several years. While the developer claims to inspect the pipes for any issues, opponents fear potential hazards along the 300-mile route.
As legal challenges and public outcry persist, opponents vow to continue their fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Despite the federal construction approval, the controversy surrounding the pipeline is far from settled, with the battle between proponents and opponents set to continue in the coming months.