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Pipeline builder halts legal effort to acquire land for NC extension

Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia is already under way. The company is also planning an extension to North Carolina.
Mountain Valley Pipeline
Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia is already under way. The company is also planning an extension to North Carolina.

Developers of a proposed pipeline extension that would bring natural gas to North Carolina have withdrawn legal proceedings to acquire land for the project. But the Mountain Valley Pipeline said it's not abandoning the $468 million project.

In a federal court filing last week, the Mountain Valley Pipeline said it was dismissing eminent domain proceedings for 70 properties in Alamance and Rockingham counties in north central North Carolina. The company said it already has easements on more than 80% of the route in Virginia and North Carolina.

The MVP Southgate pipeline would be an extension of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. The pipeline would carry fracked natural gas from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania into Virginia and North Carolina.
MVP Southgate
The 75-mile MVP Southgate pipeline would be an extension of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. The pipeline extension would carry fracked natural gas Virginia into North Carolina.

The proposed 75-mile Southgate pipeline would be an extension of the main $6.6 billion, 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline that would deliver natural gas from West Virginia into Virginia. Both projects are still awaiting some government approvals. In last week's federal court filing, MVP said:

"As the timing, design, and scope of this project continue to be evaluated, MVP has elected to dismiss this action, believing that to be the appropriate course of action for the time being and a demonstration of its desire to work cooperatively and in good faith with landowners and communities along the pipeline’s route. Though MVP is dismissing this action, it is doing so without prejudice because it has not abandoned this project, which will help North Carolina achieve its lower-carbon energy goals while also helping to meet current and future residential and commercial demand for natural gas in the region."

Environmental and social justice groups celebrated, saying the move signals the end of the project.

“Without outright declaring it, Mountain Valley Pipeline has said the extension project is all but dead, hammering in another nail into the coffin for MVP,” Patrick Grenter, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign, said in a news release. “If there is no land to build on, there is not one way that a pipeline can be built on top of it."

But MVP Southgate spokesman Shawn Day told WFAE the company remains committed to the project.

"Mountain Valley has been focused on completing the MVP mainline project, while at the same time evaluating the timing, scope and design of the Southgate project through ongoing discussions with current and prospective customers," Day said.

The pipeline already has easements for the pipeline extension in Virginia and other parts of North Carolina. As recently as May, MVP had said it had reached agreements with nine North Carolina property owners and was continuing to schedule mediation sessions with others. But since then it has reported impasses with some property owners.

Day said the withdrawal "is consistent with the team’s commitment to working collaboratively with landowners along the proposed route."

The Mountain Valley Pipeline and extension could be a key to Charlotte-based Duke Energy's strategy for reducing carbon emissions from its energy plants in North Carolina. Duke's carbon plan filed with North Carolina regulators proposes a wave of new gas-fired power plants in the coming years as it closes its remaining coal-fired plants.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline would transport natural gas extracted from shale rock formations through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Duke Energy has supported the pipeline and executives say it's an important part of their strategy. A spokesman Monday had no comment on the latest development.

Natural gas burns cleaner than coal, but would not get the state all the way to its goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions from energy by 2050. Duke's critics oppose more natural gas plants and are urging the North Carolina Utilities Commission to move more quickly toward renewable energy.

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David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.