Environmental groups lambasted Democrats' side deal to green-light a West Virginia natural gas pipeline, saying such a provision would be a "betrayal."
The groups argued that the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a 304-mile West Virginia-to-Virginia natural gas pipeline that is under construction, would mark a setback for federal environmental and endangered species protections. The $6.6 billion pipeline is mostly completed, but has faced a series of permitting setbacks from federal agencies and courts.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., agreed to support the Inflation Reduction Act, the $739 billion climate and tax package President Biden signed last month, in exchange for Democratic leadership's support of a permitting reform deal that would make it easier to approve energy projects including fossil fuel pipelines. Under the deal, which is expected to be included in the upcoming government funding bill, the MVP pipeline would be given broad federal approval.
"Members of both parties who claim to believe in property rights must come out against the abuses that MVP and other pipelines impose on landowners," David Sligh, the conservation director for Wild Virginia which has fought the pipeline, told FOX Business in an email. "Many people have had their greatest assets devalued or destroyed by the unjust practice of giving profit-making corporations the power of eminent domain."
"Members of all parties should oppose an attempt to slip this atrocity into a continuing resolution or another big must-pass bill," he continued. "If they intend to allow continued mistreatment of communities and more environmental destruction, they should have the honesty and courage to do it in the open and debate the issues fully and in a stand-alone bill."
Sligh added that approving the MVP pipeline would be a "betrayal" from both Democratic and GOP lawmakers and noted it would impact mainly Republican-leaning districts.
More than 80 other environmental and conservation groups penned a letter Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., saying the MVP pipeline would lock the U.S. into a "climate catastrophe" and "accelerate the wildlife extinction crisis in this country."
"The Mountain Valley Pipeline is an ecological and climate disaster that threatens one of the largest remaining wild landscapes in the eastern United States," the letter, which was led by the Center for Biological Diversity and joined by Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace USA and Sierra Club among others, stated.
"This destructive pipeline was rejected by the federal courts in part because of the devastation it would cause to endangered species and sensitive ecosystems along its path."
Equitrans Midstream, a Pennsylvania-based natural gas transmission company, first proposed the pipeline in 2014. The Trump administration issued the original permits for the project in 2017 and reissued the permit in early 2021.
However, a federal appeals court ruled in January that the Trump administration failed to properly consider the environmental impact of the project when issuing the permits following a legal challenge from a coalition of environmental groups led by Wild Virginia.
Equitrans announced in August that it expected the pipeline to go into service during the second half of 2023. Federal regulators gave the company until 2026 to complete the project.
Meanwhile, 72 House Democrats including Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., wrote a letter Friday to Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., urging them to reject the permitting reform deal.
"The inclusion of these provisions in a continuing resolution, or any other must-pass legislation, would silence the voices of frontline and environmental justice communities by insulating them from scrutiny," they wrote.