Gov. Cooper asks FERC to deny MVP Southgate request for more time to build its gas pipeline

By: - July 24, 2023 5:29 pm

Gov. Roy Cooper sent a letter to federal regulators today, asking that they deny MVP Southgate’s request for an extension of time to build its natural gas pipeline.

In his letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — FERC — Cooper noted that MVP’s arguments that the gas is needed for heating are “misguided.” Cooper cited the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, making billions of dollars available for residential and commercial customers who want to use electric heat instead of natural gas.

The MVP Southgate Project would start in Chatham, Virginia, and enter North Carolina in Eden, in Rockingham County. From there, the natural gas pipeline would continue roughly 46 miles southeast, ending near Haw River in Alamance County. In total, it would cross 207 streams, three ponds and temporarily affect 17,726 linear feet of streams, 6,538 square feet of open waters, and 14 acres of wetlands; another 0.02 of an acre of wetlands would be permanently damaged.

Nearly 14 acres of riparian buffers would also be affected. MVP Southgate would cross the Dan River, home to endangered and threatened species, and Stony Creek Reservoir, the main drinking water supply for the City of Burlington.

Gov. Roy Cooper
Gov. Roy Cooper (File Photo)

It originally was scheduled to be finished and in service this month, but construction hasn’t started, nor has it received the necessary state permits, such as those covering water quality and sedimentation and erosion. The pipeline owners recently asked federal energy regulators to grant them a three-year extension to finish.

The Southgate project is an extension of the main Mountain Valley Pipeline project, a 303-mile line that starts at a fracked gas facility in West Virginia and winds through environmentally sensitive terrain in Virginia. Once thought dead because of delays related to legal challenges, ballooning costs now topping $6.5 billion, and more than 200 environmental permit violations, the main MVP was jolted to life by a controversial provision in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which prevented the federal government from defaulting on its debts.

FERC has received hundreds of comments on the MVP projects since the Fiscal Responsibility Act passed, most of them in opposition. The projects were dealt another setback on July 10 when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed construction of the main line, putting both the mainline and the southern portion in limbo.

Opponents have long argued that North Carolina doesn’t need the pipeline or the gas. Cooper noted to FERC that because of a 2021 state law, any new gas-fueled energy plants, “will be forced to retire before the end of their useful lives, leading to sunk costs that will be charged to North Carolina’s ratepayers.”

FERC should also consider EPA’s new proposal for power plants to use low greenhouse gas hydrogen instead of natural gas. That proposal, though, is not final. “This will inherently reduce the demand for natural gas as an electricity generation fuel source and represents a fundamental change to the Commission’s rationale for granting MVP Southgate a certificate of convenience and public necessity.”

Fifty-two state lawmakers, all of them Democrats, also sent a letter to FERC requesting a denial for more time. Environmental advocates have also filed their opposition, while energy interests, such as the American Petroleum Institute support the time extension and the projects.

Read more about the MVP Southgate project in our archives.

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Lisa Sorg
Lisa Sorg

Assistant Editor and Environmental Reporter Lisa Sorg helps manage newsroom operations while covering the environment, climate change, agriculture and energy.