New Debt Ceiling Bill Would Fast-Track Mountain Valley Pipeline Completion
The debt ceiling bill announced by President Joe Biden and House Republicans on Sunday includes a surprise provision that would fast-track completion of the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).
The 303-mile natural gas pipeline between West Virginia and Virginia is currently 94 percent complete except for a few short segments in Virginia’s Giles and Roanoke counties, where the pipeline would eventually intersect with the Appalachian Trail under Peter’s Mountain and then parallel the footpath for miles.
Environmental concerns regarding erosion, water quality, and endangered species protections have for years delayed the permits necessary for pipeline completion. The MVP has also faced extensive grassroots opposition from local groups.
The pipeline runs within sight of both the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway, prompting some in the community to worry about its potential impact on the viewshed in an area renowned for its scenery.
“MVP would leave a 50-foot-wide strip of permanently cleared land scarring viewsheds along the entire route,” writes the advocacy group Appalachian Voices. Andrew Downs of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy told The Trek in 2022 that the ATC has negotiated with the Mountain Valley Pipeline for additional corridor treatments to minimize the pipeline’s visibility from the trail.
The deal struck between Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) includes a provision forcing the US Army Corps of Engineers to approve within three weeks all outstanding permits needed to complete the MVP.
The proposed legislation would also prohibit courts from reviewing any federal or state authorizations relating to the pipeline’s completion and early operation.
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MVP’s inclusion in the debt ceiling package is a major win for West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, whose past attempts to fast-track the pipeline have fallen short in Congress.
“I am proud to have fought for this critical project and to have secured the bipartisan support necessary to get it across the finish line,” Manchin said in a statement on Sunday.
To raise the nation’s debt limit and avert an impending default, the bill must be passed by both houses of Congress in a vote expected to take place this week.
“The agreement also represents a compromise, which means no one got everything they want,” President Biden said of the budget deal on Sunday. Still, the MVP provision is likely to draw the ire of environmental groups who have long opposed the pipeline.
Featured image via Anne Baker.
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