Mountain Valley Pipeline asks FERC for extension to finish Southgate project in NC

By: - June 15, 2023 3:39 pm
This map shows the proposed route of the MVP Southgate project, which runs from Eden, North Carolina southeast to Haw River, in Alamance County. The map shows several environmental justice communities -- nonwhite and low-income along the way. This includes the Occoneechi-Saponi tribe in Alamance County area. (Map: FERC)

This map, filed with FERC, shows the proposed route of the MVP Southgate project and the environmental justice communities along the way. (Map: FERC)

The owners of the Mountain Valley Pipeline sent a letter to federal regulators today, asking for a three-year extension to finish the southern leg, most of which would run through North Carolina.

The controversial 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. It originally was scheduled to be finished and in service this month, but it has not received the necessary permits.

The Southgate project is an extension of the main MVP, a 303-mile line that starts at a fracked gas facility in West Virginia and winds through environmentally sensitive terrain in Virginia. In 2020, the NC Department of Environmental Quality denied a water quality permit application for Southgate in part because the main MVP line was in doubt.

Opponents have successfully delayed further construction of the MVP main line through a series of lawsuits and permit challenges, which have bloated the cost of the project to more than $2.5 billion. However, the debt ceiling deal between Congress and President Biden removed many of those obstacles. According to today’s letter to FERC — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — the MVP main line could start sending natural gas at the end of this year. Given construction has not begun in the most difficult terrain, including water crossings, that timeline could be optimistic.

In North Carolina there is significant opposition to the Southgate project, including landowners whose properties the pipeline would cross. Thirty-four percent of the route is forested. It would require drilling beneath the Dan River and the Stony Creek Reservoir — Burlington’s drinking water supply– and cross another 12 water bodies containing fisheries of special concern, according to a Final Environmental Impact Statement.

The project would cause long-term, permanent impacts to hundreds of acres of forest, including those in the Jordan Lake watershed, and more than 1,000 acres of wildlife habitat. The route would also cross tribal lands belonging to the Occoneechi-Saponi.

In addition, natural gas pipelines and fracked gas wellheads leak large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas and driver of climate change.

Appalachian Voices Virginia Field Coordinator Jessica Sims issued a statement this afternoon about the extension request:
“This Southgate pipeline is not in the public interest and the developers have not demonstrated its viability. Its threats remain — from disproportionately impacting environmental justice communities along the pipeline route to endangering the waterways it would cross. Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate should not have a future.”

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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.