Mountain Valley Pipeline Project Threatens Ecosystems and Landscape of Virginia and West Virginia

by Jordan A. Bowman | Nov 18, 2016

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) ​is strongly opposed to the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline project, which would detract significantly from the scenic landscape ​of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), produce irreversible damage to local ecosystems, and potentially lead to millions of dollars in lost revenue for communities ​that rely on outdoor recreation-based tourism.

Mountain Valley Pipeline Landscape Simulation

This rendering highlights the negative impact that the Mountain Valley Pipeline will have on the Virginia and West Virginia landscape,
disrupting iconic views along the A.T. for up to 100 miles.

The ATC has a history of working with various industries to ensure that the energy needs of the public are met while simultaneously preserving the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains and the unique hiking experience that the A.T. provides.

However, after studying the woefully inaccurate Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline and witnessing the inadequacies of the environmental compliance process initiated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), we feel the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline threatens the A.T. on an unprecedented scale.

Background:

The Mountain Valley Pipeline is designed to deliver natural gas to Virginia and West Virginia, though it has been mired in controversy since its initial proposal. The pipeline would carry fracked natural gas for over 300 miles through the Virginia and West Virginia countryside, crossing over dozens of water sources, protected areas and, at one point, over the A.T. itself. The proposed project fails to meet numerous criteria the ATC laid out in a 2015 policy offering guidance on proposed natural gas pipeline projects.

Appalachian Gas Pipeline ConstructionThe ATC, the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club and many other local stakeholders  provided input on how the project could be adjusted to avoid unnecessary environmental hazards and unsightly alterations to Appalachian vistas — including following existing infrastructure corridors already cut into the landscape — but, unfortunately, almost all of this advice went unheeded.

Here are some of the major concerns we have about the Mountain Valley Pipeline:

  • Permanent damage to iconic views along the Appalachian Trail
    The FERC DEIS failed to study the visual impact the Mountain Valley Pipeline would have on the A.T. and the surrounding area. Multiple iconic viewpoints in Virginia are predicted to be severely impacted, including Angels Rest, Kelly Knob, Rice Fields, Dragons Tooth and McAfee Knob — some of the most visited and photographed locations on the entire A.T. The proposed route for the project would require the ​creation of a 500-foot "utility corridor" around the pipeline — 125 feet wide initially, with the option of expanding to 500 feet for future projects — which would effectively eliminate thousands of acres of pristine forest. The ATC will be performing its own visual simulations to understand the full impact of the pipeline, though we predict that the pipeline corridor could be viewed from over 20 miles away at many viewpoints.

  • Health and safety concerns for nearby communities and the surrounding environment.
    Numerous safety concerns loom over the Mountain Valley Pipeline as well. Situated on land that is geologically unstable — literally crossing over a designated seismic zone — the risk of severe erosion, landslides and pipeline failure are extremely high. Such instability also poses a high likelihood of natural gas leaks, which could poison the surrounding environment and contaminate the groundwater used by nearby communities.

  • Harmful changes to the Jefferson National Forest Management Plan
    In order to accommodate the visual and environmental damage that would be caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the U.S. Forest Service agreed to lower the Jefferson National Forest Management Plan standards for water quality, visual impacts, the removal of old-growth forest, and the number of simultaneous projects passing through the borders of federally protected land. This unprecedented change is ​extremely ill-considered, not only because it would permit the Mountain Valley Pipeline to destroy thousands of acres of pristine forest, but it would open the gates for future infrastructure projects to cause similar destruction. All of these changes were made without ​sufficient public review or input from other partners — a rash and dangerous change from the standards previously established ​through decades of cooperation.

  • A potentially significant impact on the economy for nearby communities.
    The negative impact this pipeline would have on nearby Pearisburg and ​Narrows, Virginia — each a designated  A.T. Community™ — would reach beyond safety concerns. These communities are staunch supporters of the A.T. and benefit from tourism dollars provided by hikers and other visitors. This economic study highlights some of the potential impacts the pipeline would have on the income and property values in the surrounding areas. Both Pearisburg and Narrows have passed resolutions opposing the pipeline, as the wellbeing of their communities may be at risk.

mcafee-knob-wide

The ATC does not take this position lightly — for months, we have attempted to find ways to minimize environmental and visual impacts through collaboration with Mountain Valley Pipeline officials and the project's various partners, including the U.S. Forest Service. However, due to the massive impact the proposed project would have on the Appalachian Trail, the surrounding environment, and multiple communities and small businesses, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy strongly opposes the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and we urge our members, the A.T. hiking community, outdoor lovers, and the citizens of Virginia and West Virginia to stand with us.

Take Action:

  • Be informed about the proposal. Learn more about the proposed project here.
  • Contact FERC directly to voice your concerns. A prewritten, editable letter to FERC Secretary Kimberly Bose can be found here.

    ​Address:
    Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
    Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
    888 First St. N.E., Room 1A
    Washington, D.C. 20426

    Phone:
    202.502.8400 


    Download an editable letter.

    Make sure to add your name and any additional comments. 

  • Contact the U.S. Forest Service to voice your concerns. 

  • Jennifer P. Adams, special project coordinator for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

    ​Address:
    5162 Valleypointe Parkway
    Roanoke, VA 24019

    Phone:
    1.888.265.0019 or
    540.265.5100

    Email:
    [email protected]

    Send a prewritten email.
    Download an editable letter.
    Make sure to add your name and any additional comments. 


  • Contact Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to voice your concerns.

  • ​Address:
    Common Ground for Virginia
    P.O. Box 1475
    Richmond, VA 23218

    Phone:

    804.786.2211

    Email:
    Click here to submit your email through Governor McAuliffe's website.

    Download an editable letter.
    Make sure to add your name and any additional comments.

  • Contact your Congressional representative to voice your concerns.

  • Virginia Senator Tim Kaine

    ​Address:
    611 S Jefferson St
    Suite 5B
    Roanoke, VA 24011

    Phone:

    540.682.5693

    Email:
    [email protected]

    Send a prewritten email.
    Download an editable letter.
    Make sure to add your name and any additional comments.

    Virginia Senator Mark R. Warner

    ​Address:
    110 Kirk Avenue SW
    Roanoke, VA 24011

    Phone:
    540.857.2676

    Email:
    ​Click here to submit your email through Senator Warner's website.

    Download an editable letter.
    Make sure to add your name and any additional comments.

    West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional Representative:
    Honorable Evan Jenkins

    ​Address:
    223 Prince St.
    Beckley, WV 25801

    Phone:
    304.250.6177

    Email:
    [email protected]

    Send a prewritten email.
    Download an editable letter.
    Make sure to add your name and any additional comments. 

    Virginia’s 5th Congressional Representative
    Honorable Robert Hurt

    ​Address:
    686 Berkmar Circle
    Charlottesville, VA 22901

    Phone:
    434.973.9631

    Email:
    [email protected] 

    Send a prewritten email.
    Download an editable letter.
    Make sure to add your name and any additional comments.

    Virginia’s 6th Congressional Representative
    Honorable Robert Goodlatte

    ​Address:
    10 Franklin Road SE
    Suite 540
    Roanoke, VA 24011

    Phone:
    540.857.2672

    Email:
    [email protected] 

    Send a prewritten email.
    Download an editable letter.
    Make sure to add your name and any additional comments.

    Virginia’s 9th Congressional Representative
    Honorable Morgan Griffith

    ​Address:
    323 West Main Street
    Abingdon, VA 24210

    Phone:
    276.525.1405

    Email:
    [email protected]

    Send a prewritten email.
    Download an editable letter.
    Make sure to add your name and any additional comments. 


  • Contact the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to voice your concerns.

    Director David K. Paylor

    ​Address:
    P.O. Box 1105
    Richmond, VA 23218

    Email:
    [email protected]

    Send a prewritten email.
    Download an editable letter.
    Make sure to add your name and any additional comments. 

     
  • Notify friends and family and share information on social media about the permanent damage this ​pipeline ​would cause to the scenery and experience provided by the A.T. and its surrounding lands.
  • Support ​our work so we can continue our role as guardians of the Appalachian Trail.

Partners Against the Mountain Valley Pipeline:


Media ​Coverage:


144 Comments

  1. 144 Glenda Gray 20 Nov
    Please consider strongly the environmental and economic impact of a pipeline through a national treasure like the Appalachian Trail.  If corporate America continues its unthinking march through our irreplaceable natural resources it will one day find itself with nothing left to pillage.  Please take care!
  2. 143 Jerry Laster 21 Nov
    Member of ATC and avid hiker on the AT. Add me to the list AGAINST this pipeline!
  3. 142 William Groat 21 Nov
    Please help preserve this section of wilderness. 
  4. 141 Kerri Jones 21 Nov
    No more oil!!!
  5. 140 Chris Kennedy 21 Nov
    Our countries forest are our most important resource. We can do without oil. Solar and wind energies are real and work but there will never be anything to replace the trees
  6. 139 Tammy Huff 21 Nov
    Please Stop destroying our earth!  We Do Not have another one!! 
  7. 138 Elora and Monte McKenzie 21 Nov
        We support you and your positions wholeheartedly!!
  8. 137 Sue Masterson 21 Nov
    This pipeline is a multitude of disasters waiting to happen. We are taking leaps backward in this country. A pipeline will ruin this area.
  9. 136 Jan Kalouš 21 Nov
    Nothing is more important for future generation than Nature. I im from Czech Republic and I spend best time s on appalachian trail , dont let them destroy this beautiful place. Good luck!!!!!
  10. 135 Denise Guy 21 Nov
    As a true lover of our beautiful Appalachian region, count me also AGAINST this pipeline. There are other ways. Destroying our sacred Earth is not the right answer. 
  11. 134 Lynette Demetri 21 Nov
    This is terrible. I hope everyone can make this not happen. No one wants these pipelines carving up the land and causing potential and lasting damage. Who is letting this happen?
  12. 133 Cody 21 Nov
    Protect our forest, we don't need this pipeline through this section of the wilderness
  13. 132 Gerald Mistal 21 Nov
    The routed pipeline is inappropriate due to the topography and geology of this area.  This pipeline has a high chance of failure which would pollute land and water resources in many watersheds.  Also, to ruin a 100 mile viewshed of a National Scenic Trail is irrevocable. 
  14. 131 Stu Bitter 21 Nov
    I like it for the jobs it will create. Love the mountains though
  15. 130 Galia Goodman 21 Nov
    This projects will create a few jobs four a small period of time, while the damage to the environment and the LONG TERM damage to the recreation and hospitality industries in the area will be long-lasting and in some cases permanent.  Please take the long view.  No pipeline!
  16. 129 Alan 21 Nov
    These pipelines have to come to an end.  You oil people are jeopardizing out eco systems.  <:-)
  17. 128 Caitlin 21 Nov
    THIS IS PUBLIC LAND. IT IS NOT FOR SALE WITHOUT PUBLIC'S APPROVAL.
  18. 127 Megan Johnson 21 Nov
    Please consider how this trail affects thousands of lives each year, especially in this particular, spectacular section. Don't destroy one of our greatest pieces of national pride. The jobs will be temporary and then we will be left with a ravaged land. You can't get it back once you take it away.
    Please don't ruin this section of the Appalachian Trail when it certainly can be avoided.
  19. 126 Carol Fleischman 22 Nov
    It is unacceptable to degrade a valuable wilderness environment for gas company profits. 
  20. 125 Emily Kelding 22 Nov
    There is no need for a pipeline in the Appalachian mountains. The coal industry has already done enough damage. We need to start rebuilding and protecting these mountains, not destroying them.

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