GREENBRIER COUNTY, WV (WOWK) — In May, the U.S. Forest Service reissued approval for a permit giving the Mountain Valley Pipeline the greenlight for construction on national forest land.

That move and others recently put the controversial $6.6 billion natural gas pipeline one step closer to being completed. 

“I mean, the pipeline was still going to happen. So, you know, you can protest all you want but it is going to happen,” said Wanda Rollyson, while taking a break from taking care of her sprawling lawn.

Rollyson moved to Lawn, West Virginia, in Greenbrier County just in time to see the pipeline come through. 

“You could see them here working, up here behind the hill is where Mrs. Judy lived and went across the hill,” she said gesturing behind her home.  

While the dust from all of the construction vehicles going by her house was initially a concern, she said she has been able to find a silver lining. “It gave people jobs. So, you know, it keeps people working and that is the good thing. We don’t have to rely on the government to give us money every month,” Rollyson said. 

But there are differing opinions on whether the pipeline is a path to opportunity or a path of destruction.

Leaders with the Mountain Valley Pipeline say the 300-mile-plus project going from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Virginia is roughly 94% completed. But work has been stalled for years after multiple delays due to regulatory challenges from those opposed to the pipeline. 

According to Natalie Cox, spokesperson for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, taking into account the exclusion area surrounding the National Forest, the Mountain Valley Pipeline project has not had complete and full authorization to work since mid-2018. 

“It is a ridiculous charade I think in the name of a green agenda that has held this up when really we have pipelines in our state everywhere. We safely move natural gas,” said Senator Shelly Moore Capito, (R) West Virginia. 

Amy Mall, Senior Advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council said there’s a reason people are fighting back. 

“A lot of the construction that still remains has to do with crossing bodies of water, whether it is a river, a stream, or a creek. Some of the communities that are near a pipeline route have no secondary source of drinking water if their drinking water source is somehow contaminated. There is a risk to the endangered species. There can be explosive risks depending on how steep the slope is and how safe the pipeline is constructed,” she explained.

Many West Virginia lawmakers have been outspoken supporters of the project. 

“I think it has been to the 4th Circuit eight or nine times. It has been to the different state and federal agencies a number of times and it has gone through every rigorous oversight review to meet all of the stipulations and all of the reforms that were asked and adjustments that were made by the court system,” said Senator Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia. “I have no idea how this could ever go back to another court system once they have met and complied with all of the agencies they’ve had to work with.” 

Right now, the pipeline sits in a state of limbo, waiting to cross even more permitting hurdles.

In the communities where the pipeline has already come through many people including those who ultimately sold portions of their land for pipeline construction were hesitant to talk on camera.  While there hasn’t been any major progress for a while, tension remains between neighbors, among family members and on a bigger scale. 

“Not everybody has been on board,” Rollyson recalled. “About two years ago there were some ladies who chained themselves inside one of the culverts down there.” 

Mall said many people in the community are frustrated by the potential long-term impact on their lives. “There is no demonstrated public benefit for this pipeline and that is why so many people are fighting it. In particular, landowners, because their land could be damaged. They could be financially harmed,” she said.  

In addition to getting clearance from the U.S. Forest Service, the pipeline also received a right of way and temporary use permit from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management. The pipeline needs authorization from the US Army Corps of Engineers and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. 

“There’s nothing that has really been reviewed as much as this has been reviewed, contested as much as this has been contested,” Manchin said. “I think which has basically been horrible on the final product. It’ll have a higher cost than it should have. They’ve doubled the cost on it. So, the longer we delay, the more cost is involved. The administration is moving it, this administration, the agencies are moving it.” 

West Virginia lawmakers fighting for the pipeline say it is vital in terms of infrastructure, supplying the need for energy and in terms of national security. 

“The Mountain Valley Pipeline will be able to move that fuel not just to the liquified natural gas terminals that could then go to Europe. It also goes into a lot of the southern part of this country to power that, where we are looking at some shortages,” Capito said. 

It is a claim disputed by groups opposed to the project.  

“One of the things that some people have been saying recently is that the pipeline is needed for national security or energy security. And it is important to know that the United States has enough energy. There is no projected shortfall of natural gas or pipeline capacity,” Mall said. 
Meanwhile, leaders with the Gas and Oil Association of WV, Inc. say the state has a tremendous amount to gain from seeing the project get back on track. 

“Every direct job that this industry provides there’s almost another two jobs created to support it. These folks who complete pipeline work they stay locally, they support our gasoline stations; they support our restaurants, and they support our community,” Charlie Burd, Executive Director, Gas and Oil Association of WV, Inc. “So up and down this 300-mile pipeline there is a lot of economic activity associated directly to it and the oil and gas industry in general.” 

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