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Water Crossings Next Hurdle for MVP Approval


Time was about to run out for Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality to gauge the impact of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on sensitive wetlands in its path. Now, that deadline is being extended until next year.

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality is getting more time to assess the impact of the 303-mile, 42-inch-wide pipeline on hundreds of tiny streams and waterways. This week the Army Corps of Engineers granted an extension until spring of next year.

Tom Cormons is with the advocacy group Appalachian Voices.

“We take the extension to be a real signal that protecting water quality is a priority for the federal and state regulators here," Cormons says. "And, it really needs to be if you look at the hundreds of violations that the Mountain Valley Pipeline has already accrued over the years.”

And while anti-pipeline protestors continue their fight to stop the project all together, others say it’s needed in the region. Cline Brubaker is a former member of the Franklin County Board of Supervisors and a dairy farmer in the county, where there is no natural gas to speak of. He says that’s hurting job prospects.

“We have the capacity for as many as 2200 jobs in the business park. We've got three businesses that are already obligated, but we've got room for a number more," Brubaker explains. "And to me, natural gas is an essential part of growth at this time. That's not to say natural gas is going to be here forever.” 

The Mountain Valley Pipeline was slated to go into service in 2018. But now that timeline is being extended to allow state officials more time to determine its impact on hundreds of waterways along its path.

For people who oppose the pipeline, that’s a victory, while for others, the continued delay is holding back progress in the region. Again, Cline Brubaker.

“I'm of the opinion that you have to continue to invest in a business. And I consider Franklin County a business, basically," Brubaker says. "And if you stop investing in the future, you're going backwards because everybody else is still moving forward. And the pipeline to me represents opportunity for Franklin County.

Pipeline opponents say the time has passed for fossil fuels. Again,Tom Cormons.

“This proposed pipeline is not necessary. It’s damaging to the local heritage we hold dear," Cormons says. "It's damaging to Virginia communities, it's bad for the climate. It simply runs contrary to the public interest on so many levels, that we need to be pursuing better alternatives.”

The Mountain Valley Pipeline project is more than 3 years past it’s due date and its cost is now estimated at $6.2 billion, close to double initial estimates. 

A spokesperson for the pipeline company has said she fully supports extending the deadline.

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.