Pipeline project not popular with West Virginia residents

By: Mike Marsh

The Mountain Valley Pipeline Project, commonly refereed to as MVP, announced late last week that they are filing suit against 100 West Virginia residents who have refused to allow access to their properties for surveys. MVP claims that eminent domain, which is the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation, gives them the right to this access, even though they have not yet filed an official application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The MVP sees high economic potential in the state of West Virginia. West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin appears to agree.

Tomblin says “West Virginia continues to be one of our nation’s energy leaders, and the [MVP] will help create new construction jobs for our workforce and identify markets for our state’s abundant supply of natural gas. We appreciate…our state and their willingness to work with local economic developers to provide natural gas service in areas that would benefit from both new industry and downstream growth. These investments have the potential to create good-paying jobs and by keeping key byproducts in our state…”

Some residents in West Virginia do not see the project as positively. Lawsuits were filed against residents across 10 W. Va. counties along the new corridor of gas line projects, which were recently proposed in February, because they did think MVP had the right to conduct this project on private property. The MVP provides list of all the counties in West Virginia that will be effected by the project with individual maps that show exactly where the line will be dug once the project begins.

This is a map showing the whole area of West Virginia and surrounding states where the proposed gas line will run through.


A lot of the opposition has come from residents in Southern West Virginia, who oppose one of the big natural gas transmission lines which has been proposed by MVP to transport gas from fracking areas in the state southward. Several active grassroots groups have formed trying to oppose the line and preserve the land that the people value.

This is pretty characteristic of rural West Virginia’s attitudes in recent decades. People living in southern West Virginia are very attached to the land, perhaps due in part to the long history of agriculture. Many people who’ve moved to this part of the state lately have done so because of their attraction to this sort of landscape.

It is easy to see how people become distraught at the thought of things like this, which are seen as encroachments on their private property. The farming history in West Virginia speaks for itself and when time and resources are put in to maintaining private property for agricultural purposes, there is going to be opposition to anything requires digging up someone’s source of livelihood. The video below flips through some pictures of what a pipeline digging site in West Virginia looks like. This isn’t a small operation by any means and it’s evident parts of the land get pretty torn up.

The criticism towards MVP is not the first time counties in Southern West Virginia vouched to protect their land. Similar opposition successfully stopped a 765kv electric transmission line and a proposed 4-lane upgrade of Rt. 219 all within the last 10 or 15 years.

The West Virginia Surface Owner’s Rights Association offers advice to residents who are wondering about what they can do legally when it comes to oil and gas drilling that is planned to be conducted on their property. They believe that a gas driller, producer, or operator should not have the power of eminent domain to lay its gas lines from its gas wells to compressor stations. In their opinion it is clearly a private, not public, purpose.

The West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association are on board with the MVP project. They are confident that MVP will facilitate natural gas transpiration and make it a lot easier for gas collected from drilling operations to reach oil and gas processors in the south. The WVONGA have a cumulative investment of nearly $10 billion in W. Va. They have more than 15,000 miles of pipeline throughout the state, own about 20,000 oil and gas wells, and provide oil and natural gas to roughly 300,000 W. Va. homes and businesses.

It makes sense that the people in the community are hesitant to let these projects come in and start installing pipelines underneath their property, but with compensation being offered to those in locations where the lines need to be constructed and assurance that once they are finished the property will be restored, it is not an too unfair of a proposition. As it stands, the project is scheduled to begin in December of 2016.

This is the current timeline for the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project. Once started, the gas line should be in service by mid-2018: