Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, developer of the contentious 2 million Dth/d, 300-mile natural gas conduit, plans to donate up to $19.5 million for conservation efforts in Virginia and West Virginia, where the unfinished pipeline is routed.

Mountain Valley Pipeline

The commitment is part of an agreement between the developer and conservation groups the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and the Conservation Fund aimed at supporting the ATC’s mission to manage and protect the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

MVP’s voluntary commitment, dedicated for use in West Virginia and southwestern Virginia, marks the largest sum earmarked for advancing conservation in a single geographic area in the ATC’s history, the group said.

“Ensuring that lands around the Appalachian Trail are conserved and connected is not only essential to protecting the most famous hiking trail in the world but also critical to preserving a wide variety of additional values,” said ATC’s Laura Belleville, vice president of Conservation and Trail Programs. 

“Whether it’s conserving high priority, climate-resilient lands or safeguarding iconic vistas from the Trail, this agreement will greatly advance the pace and scale of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s mission-critical landscape conservation work. Protection of critical lands in Virginia and West Virginia will also help local recreation-based economies who rely on these lands to sustain a host of outdoor recreation activities.”

Working with the Conservation Fund, the ATC plans to use the funding to “secure a net conservation gain to the Trail” and to “benefit” public natural resources near the Trail such as the Jefferson National Forest.

MVP first reached out to the groups and other stakeholders over a year ago to identify conservation efforts that would complement the pipeline project, which has often been the target of criticism from landowners and environmentalists.

The ATC said it raised concerns about the potential impacts from the pipeline and agreed to work with MVP to seek solutions. The resulting agreement will enable the ATC to “acquire high-priority lands” near the Trail in Virginia and West Virginia; the group said some of the acquisitions will help improve the hiking experience along the Trail, while others will “create buffers” for wildlife areas and “safeguard climate resilient habitats.”

“One of MVP’s primary objectives is the preservation and protection of our cultural, historical, and environmental resources and we are very pleased to be working with these two outstanding organizations,” said COO Diana Charletta of MVP operator EQM Midstream Partners. “We understand the sensitivities that surround the blending of large-scale infrastructure projects with environmental protection and we recognize the importance of continuing to develop major energy projects in a responsible manner.

“…The Appalachian Trail is a national treasure and, by working together, we will provide beneficial outcomes for the region, the environment, and our communities. This agreement demonstrates that the country can continue to meet its energy needs while also providing a net benefit to the Appalachian Trail.”

The Appalachian Trail was at the center of a recent court case involving the similarly routed and now canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The case saw environmental groups challenge the legality of the pipeline’s proposed crossing of the Trail, a challenge that went to the U.S. Supreme Court before it was ultimately struck down.

While the legal basis for its Trail crossing appears intact following the recent Supreme Court ruling, MVP has been in a holding pattern over issues with its permitting under the Endangered Species Act. EQM management said recently construction of the project, which would start in West Virginia and terminate at an interconnect with the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line in Virginia, is 92% complete.