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Mountain Valley proposes shrinking Southgate extension
Mountain Valley proposes shrinking Southgate extension

Mountain Valley Pipeline is proposing to more than halve the length of its Southgate Extension running from southern Virginia into North Carolina, a change that would mean it no longer needs a compressor station Virginia previously rejected, according to an update with federal regulators.

The Dec. 29 announcement of the reduced project, which would shrink from 75 to 31 miles, comes on the heels of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granting the company another three years to complete work.

Southgate was previously intended to transport natural gas from Mountain Valley’s primary 303-mile pipeline — which runs from the Utica shale fields in West Virginia into Pittsylvania County — farther south into Rockingham and Alamance counties in North Carolina. The new plan would halt the extension in Rockingham.

In an update filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mountain Valley lead developer Equitrans Midstream said the proposal is part of an agreement with the Public Service Company of North Carolina and an unnamed third party, both of which have committed to purchase increased amounts of gas carried by the extension. 

“In contrast to the original, lengthier project route and design, which required an additional compressor station (the permit application for which was denied by the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board in 2021), the revised project would include substantially fewer water crossings and would not require a new compressor station,” the update states.

The original Southgate plans required the construction of a compressor station near Chatham, Virginia to repressurise gas from Mountain Valley’s main pipeline so it could travel the rest of the distance into North Carolina. However, Virginia’s air board denied a required permit for the station in December 2021, saying pollution from the facility would disproportionately impact Black and low-income people in the area surrounding it.

In addition to the Virginia denial, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality previously rejected two requests by the pipeline company for a state water permit because of “unnecessary and avoidable impacts to surface waters and riparian buffers.”

The project also still needs federal approval known as a 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers because it will release dredged or fill material into waterways.

The update filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission notes the anticipated completion date of the project is June 2028, two years past the new deadline FERC gave it last month, meaning the company will need to ask for another extension.

“Mountain Valley remains committed to the MVP Southgate project and helping meet public demand for affordable, reliable natural gas,” said Shawn Day, a spokesperson for the project. “At the appropriate time, the MVP Southgate team intends to pursue all necessary permits and authorizations to complete theconstructionf this important energy infrastructure project.”

Environmental groups, including Protect Our Water Heritage Rights and Appalachian Voices, called the plan reduction a positive development while reiterating their opposition to the overall project.

“Mountain Valley Pipeline and its Southgate extension have been poorly conceived from the beginning, but today some of the communities in harm’s way can breathe easier,” said Jessica Sims, Virginia field coordinator for Appalachian Voices. “We know these changes resulted from sustained opposition to this unnecessary methane gas pipeline and its Southgate extension, and our opposition continues.”

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