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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
- 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.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
888 First St. N.E., Room 1A
Washington, D.C. 20426
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
- Contact Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to voice your concerns.
- Contact your Congressional representative to voice your concerns.
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine
Virginia Senator Mark R. Warner
West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional Representative:
Honorable Evan Jenkins
Virginia’s 5th Congressional Representative
Honorable Robert Hurt
Virginia’s 6th Congressional Representative
Honorable Robert Goodlatte
Virginia’s 9th Congressional Representative
Honorable Morgan Griffith
- Contact the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to voice your concerns.
Director David K. Paylor
- 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:
- Jan. 15, 2016 - "Shifflett: Environmental review is flawed", The Roanoke Times
- Jan. 14, 2017 - "Reynolds: Chamber should oppose pipeline", The Roanoke Times
- Jan. 13, 2017 - "April Pierson-Keating: In WV, fossil fuels threaten our future", Charleston Gazette-Mail
- Jan. 8, 2017 - "Will Trump's 'All Of The Above' Energy Policy Impact The Parks?", National Parks Traveler
- Jan. 8, 2017 - "'Pipeline Fighters' documentary a show of protest", The Roanoke Times
- Jan. 4, 2017 - "Virginia Congressman Behind Ethics Rollback Attempt Accused of Conflict of Interest Over Pipeline", Facing South
- Jan. 4, 2017 - "DEQ filing supports SMLA position on Mountain Valley Pipeline", Bedford Bulletin
- Jan. 3, 2017 - "Federal regulators weigh in on proposed national gas pipeline", The Register-Herald
- Jan. 1, 2017 - "Christopulos: Virginia's Blue Ridge or Virginia's pipeline alley?", The Roanoke Times
- Dec. 30, 2016 - "Agencies: ‘Deficiencies’ in FERC’s report on MVP", Kallanish Energy News
- Dec. 29, 2016 - "Draft Pipeline Report Criticized as Incomplete, Insufficient", Public News Service
- Dec. 28, 2016 - "FERC DEIS for Mountain Valley Pipeline Needs Work, Federal Agencies Say", Natural Gas Intelligence
- Dec. 27, 2016 - "Pipeline opponents buoyed by federal agency concerns", WDBJ7
- Dec. 24, 2016 - "State, US agencies criticize pipeline impact assessment", The Washington Times
- Dec. 23, 2016 - "State, feds call for improved pipeline environmental impact statement", The Roanoke Times
- Dec. 23, 2016 - "Citizens demand unbiased review of Mountain Valley Pipeline proposal", Augusta Free Press
- Dec. 21, 2016 - "EPA finds fault with environmental review of Mountain Valley Pipeline", The Roanoke Times
- Dec. 20, 2016 - "Regional governments bash pipeline impact statement", The Roanoke Times
- Dec. 20, 2016 - "Proposed natural gas pipeline would cross through the Appalachian Trail", GrindTV
- Dec. 20, 2016 - "New Mountain Valley pipeline threatens stretch of the Appalachian Trail", Mic
- Dec. 17, 2016 - "This Proposed Pipeline Would Cut Right Through The Appalachian Trail", The Huffington Post
- Dec. 17, 2016 - "This Pipeline Would Cut Through America's Most Celebrated Hiking Trail", EcoWatch
- Dec. 15, 2016 - "Proposed pipeline to cut through Appalachian Trail, set dangerous example for development in protected areas", The Wilderness Society Blog
- Dec. 15, 2016 - "Kark: Don't sacrifice Giles County for pipeline", The Roanoke Times
- Dec. 7, 2016 - "FERC’s Pipeline Impact Statement Full of Errors, say Environmental Groups", WVTF Public Radio
- Dec. 7, 2016 - "Warning: Unnecessary Pipelines Could Leave Consumers Holding the Bag", Environmental Defense Fund Energy Exchange Blog
- Dec. 5, 2016 - "Group continues protests against regional pipeline", The Weirton Daily Times
- Nov. 27, 2016 - "As pipeline looms, historic Newport braces for change", The Roanoke Times
- Nov. 27, 2016 - "Editorial: Do pipeline economics add up?", The Roanoke Times
- Nov. 24, 2016 - "Mountain Valley Pipeline v. McCurdy: Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia Holds that Eminent Domain by Private Company Must be for Public Use", The National Law Review
- Nov. 18, 2016 - "Wild Virginia Calls on Forest Service, BLM to reject draft environmental assessment for Mountain Valley Pipeline", Augusta Free Press
- Nov. 16, 2016 - "State Supreme Court rules for landowners in pipeline eminent domain case", West Virginia MetroNews
- Nov. 9, 2016 - "Citizens comment on proposed pipeline", The Roanoke Times
- Nov. 3, 2016 - "Pipeline watchdogs slam analysis of proposed project's environmental impacts", The Roanoke Times
- Nov. 3, 2016 - "WGL Midstream acquires larger stake in Mountain Valley Pipeline project", The Roanoke Times
- Sep. 16, 2016 - "The AT is in the Path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline", WVTF Public Radio
- Sep. 15, 2016 - "State agency recommends routing Mountain Valley Pipeline to avoid karst in Montgomery County", The Roanoke Times
- Jul. 8, 2016 - "Karst geology poses severe challenges for Mountain Valley Pipeline", Augusta Free Press
- May 6, 2016 - "Judge denies MVP request for injunction against Bent Mountain property owner", The Roanoke Times