Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426
Re: Notice of Request For Extension of Time re Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC under CP16-10 et al.
Dear Secretary Bose:
On behalf of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) and our undersigned members, we would like to express our overall opposition to the request for extension of four years for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). In addition, the Commission should grant more time for individuals to respond.
First, a 15-day comment period is woefully inadequate for a request of this magnitude. More substantively, MVP has not shown good cause for requesting an extension of four years, much longer than typical FERC extensions. The landscape has shifted greatly since MVP was first authorized. Domestic and international leadership is shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy in light of climate change and FERC is reevaluating its internal certification processes. The environmental and public interest findings that underlie the initial certification are already dated; extending the certificate for four additional years would ensure that these underlying findings are invalid.
Insufficient Comment Period Length
Fifteen days is an insufficient amount of time to garner robust public input on a project of this size and controversy, especially when much of the comment period falls over a holiday weekend. Individuals who are affected by and concerned about the project often have regular jobs and have to make time to draft a well thought out comment. These individuals may need to gather technical information, which takes time. They also have to re-acquaint or familiarize themselves with the convoluted process of submission.
CCAN is especially disappointed about the short comment period given the newly founded Office of Public Participation (“OPP”). The mission of OPP “is to empower, promote, and support public voices at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.” A 15-day comment period announced just before a holiday weekend seems like more of the same from a notoriously opaque and difficult-to-navigate agency. We hope that OPP has already advised the Commission that a comment period of this length is insufficient.
Four Years is Too Long
Construction deadlines may be extended only for good cause if the project proponent encounters unforeseeable circumstances. MVP requests a four-year extension due to “the ongoing litigation and remand proceedings related to several permits and authorizations.” This litigation was both foreseeable and self-inflicted. Courts have now thrown out two permits to cross the Jefferson National Forest (one in July 2018 and again in February 2022) and called into question two permits issued under the Endangered Species Act (once in October 2019 and again in February 2022). Due to the lack of federal permits, the Army Corps of Engineers is unable to issue a permit under the Clean Water Act.
If, as MVP claims, its “infrastructure project is built and operated to the highest levels of safety and environmental standards,” then why are courts tossing permit after permit? In truth, MVP is proposing to traverse multiple national forests and incredibly steep terrain. In fact, 225 miles of the pipeline – 74 percent of its total length – is routed to cross high landslide risk territory. Crossing this difficult terrain leads to erosion and sedimentation problems, which have been extensively documented since the pipeline was proposed. The court decisions vacating multiple permits are a direct result of MVP’s decision to build a high-risk pipeline through treacherous terrain.
The timeframe for an extension must not be so long that the environmental and public interest findings underlying the Commission’s authorization become invalid. The landscape has shifted greatly since MVP was first authorized. The impacts of climate change are increasingly dire and governments are prioritizing a shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. FERC itself is reassessing its certification policies to more closely examine impacts to the climate and impacted communities while courts have ruled that the agency has not even been compliant with its existing policy. The underlying environmental and public interest findings are already out of date; extending the certificate for four additional years would ensure that these underlying findings are invalid.
CCAN and its undersigned members request that you reject MVP’s extension request of four years. In addition, we urge you to extend the comment period to enable full participation by impacted parties, in line with FERC’s renewed commitment to public participation.