For six years, Connecticut residents in Killingly, the small northeastern towns around it, and eventually climate-concerned Nutmeggers around the state, fought NTE’s proposed fracked gas power plant, and won.
For eight years, homeowners, climate activists, people of science and people of faith have been fighting to stop the Mountain Valley pipeline (MVP), a 42-inch diameter fracked gas pipeline that has been built out in segments across 303 miles of West Virginia and southwestern Virginia.
It would have been completed by now, but the consortium of companies building it lost the permits they had to cross hundreds of rivers and streams and the steepest mountainsides, due to their egregious violations of environmental laws, leading to a two-year pause in construction. This has become a national fight that we must win.
I joined these courageous folks for a drive/walk along the pipeline in May and June as part of the Walk for Appalachia’s Future. Along the way, we met people who have organized their neighbors, testified at hearings, sued to stop the pipeline, and disrupted construction through creative non-violent direct actions such as tree-sitting along the route.
The “side deal” negotiated between Sen. Joe Manchin (D- W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that accompanied the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) would enable completion of the MVP, overriding state and federal environmental and energy agencies and moving any judicial review to a district perceived as more industry-friendly.
Construction has already been incredibly destructive — contaminating drinking water, causing shifts and settling in the surrounding terrain, denuding the landscape and creating an ugly scar across one of the most beautiful and most fragile parts of the country. If completed, it would do much more damage to the communities who live along the route and to the climate, with methane (a potent greenhouse gas) leaks all along the production route, and increased risk of explosions (at least two have already occurred along other pipelines in West Virginia). The carbon dioxide emitted from burning the gas would be equivalent to 23 typical coal plants, or 19 million gas-powered passenger vehicles.
In addition to mandating the completion of the MVP, the side deal would:
- Hamstring the authority of multiple federal agencies
- Codify Trump rules eroding Clean Water Act protections, reducing the authority of states and Tribal governments by reducing the amount of time for review and for which impacts can be considered
- Make it less likely that a water quality permit can be denied or improved
- Weaken project review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by slashing the amount of time allotted for review and creating loopholes for projects to avoid review altogether
These provisions are in the draft legislation that was vetted by the American Petroleum Institute and is what Congress will be voting on when members return from their August recess. It will likely be tacked onto “must pass” legislation such as the budget bill. While the proposals to “streamline” the permitting process would also apply to renewable energy projects, the side deal takes an “all of the above” approach to energy, with fracked gas projects and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) getting billions in subsidies that even former CCS project developers now say is a total waste of money and will only help entrench rather than phase out fossil fuels.
We can’t afford that at this late stage in the climate crisis.
Methane, which comprises about 95% of fossil gas, heats the planet 100 times as fast as CO2 in the first 10 years after release. That’s the timeframe we need to address since the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we must cut fossil fuel pollution in half by 2030 if we hope to avoid irreversible climate impacts.
Opponents of the MVP, and of the American Petroleum Institute draft legislation, are not going quietly into the night. This is a “must stop” fight. If Congress passes this bill, it will go a long way toward negating the positive climate elements in the IRA. The “Appalachian Resistance” and their supporters will be rolling into D.C. on September 8 to lobby their legislators and raise a ruckus at a rally afterward. I’ll be there. Why don’t you join me?
Melinda Tuhus lives in Hamden