FACT CHECK: Is Energy Infrastructure “Barreling Toward Obsolescence?”


A recent letter to the editor published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch celebrating the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and calling for the same fate for the Mountain Valley Pipeline writes:

The failure of the ACP, coupled with the court-mandated shutdown of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), proves that gas and oil infrastructure is barreling toward obsolescence and the processes for permitting these projects perpetuate grave environmental injustice. As was shown with the ACP and DAPL, MVP and MVP Southgate should not and cannot stand. These projects should be canceled now and Gov. Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring and every Virginia state legislator openly should be calling for such.



Filled with anti-pipeline rhetoric rooted in an ideological opposition to the use of fossil fuels, the letter seems to overlook the facts of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the broader American energy landscape. It is important to keep in mind that opposing the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline will not alter reality and minimize the region’s natural gas needs. Instead, fuel will be transported by less safe and less environmentally-conscious methods of truck and rail. In addition to producing less emissions than the alternatives of truck and rail, pipelines are safer and more efficient – taking any potential risks off the rails and roads.

Energy infrastructure is not becoming obsolete, considering fossil fuels still provide the mainstay of American energy needs. In fact, natural gas was the largest source of U.S. electricity generation in 2019 – meeting nearly 40 percent of American energy needs. Wind and solar generation, on the other hand, made up less than 10 percent. Additionally, natural gas has been key in lowering global carbon emissions – led by the United States – while continuing to provide reliable, affordable energy for consumers. Politics and ideological opposition to fossil fuels can’t change these facts.

The letter also claims “the processes for permitting these projects perpetuate grave environmental injustice.” Rather, the permitting and approval process is a rigorous, multi-year undertaking that involves careful planning and routing, meetings with local stakeholders and officials, and welcomes feedback and comments from the public. Pipeline routes are selected only after months of extensive environmental analysis and review and are ultimately determined based on the option with the least potential environmental impact.

In addition to ensuring reliable access to affordable, domestically-produced natural gas, major pipeline projects like Mountain Valley bring with them significant economic benefits. Given the COVID-induced economic hardships facing the American economy, large-scale, shovel-ready infrastructure projects like Mountain Valley support thousands of jobs, usher in new streams of tax revenue, and create new economic opportunities for the communities along the pipeline’s route.

Rather than touting the loss of thousands of family-sustaining jobs, billions in economic impact, millions of dollars in annual tax revenue, and hoping for the demise of other energy infrastructure projects, it is important policymakers and regulators promote a straightforward permitting and approval process that ensures regulatory certainty for infrastructure investments. Now is not the time to gamble with our nation’s energy future.