Alpha says Mountain Valley Pipeline may impact West Virginia coal operations

The Alpha Natural Resources Services LLC unit of coal producer Alpha Natural Resources on Nov. 25 filed to intervene and offered an initial protest in a case where the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is considering approval of an Oct. 23 application from Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC for the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project.

Alpha Natural Resources subsidiaries own, lease, or otherwise control and will mine coal reserves in the vicinity of and beneath the location of the proposed project, which will cross a major chunk of West Virginia. Based on the information MVP has submitted thus far, Alpha has determined that the project will impact active and future mining operations of at least two of Alpha’s affiliates, and may impact other Alpha operations.

“From the face of MVP’s application it does not appear that MVP has adequately addressed mining issues,” said Alpha. “Therefore, Alpha files this limited protest to ensure that safety issues associated with constructing a pipeline over active and future mining areas are fully considered in the Resource Reports, Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement, and any certificate order.”

MVP proposes to construct approximately 301 miles of 42-inch diameter pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia to supply about 2 million dekatherms of gas per day to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern U.S. The proposed pipeline will originate at an interconnection with Equitrans LP’s existing H-302 pipeline near the MarkWest Liberty Midstream & Resources LLC Mobley processing facility in Wetzel County, West Virginia, and terminate at Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Co. LLC’s Zone 5 Compressor Station 165 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.

Alpha, currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, is one of America’s leading producers of coal. The Alpha companies own, lease, or otherwise control, and have been or will be engaged in the mining of, substantial coal reserves in the vicinity of and beneath the pipelines proposed as part of the project. Based on information and maps included in MVP’s Resource Report 6, the project will traverse various coal seams in central West Virginia, including coal reserves that are owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by, and which have been or will be mined by or on behalf of Alpha affiliates Green Valley Coal and Brooks Run Mining.

MVP has not yet surveyed and finalized the entire project route, making it impossible to determine the precise extent to which the project will impact each of Alpha’s affiliates, said the coal company. At the very least, however, Alpha has identified the following locations where it appears that the project will traverse Alpha affiliate operations:

  • Green Valley’s Quinwood No. 7 Mine, a deep mine with an active permit in Nicholas County, W. Va.;
  • Green Valley’s Grassy Creek No. 2 Deep Mine, a deep mine that is currently inactive (but could be reopened) in Nicholas County, W. Va.;
  • Brooks Run’s Whiteoak-Coltrane Deep Mine, a planned deep mine in Webster County, W. Va., that Brooks Run is in the process of permitting; and
  • Green Valley’s Potato Hole Knob Deep Mine, a planned deep mine in Nicholas County, W. Va.

The coal leases and deeds for the property where the Alpha companies’ mines are located, which are publicly recorded, grant the Alpha companies the right to conduct surface mining or full extraction underground mining, and they permit the Alpha companies to subside the surface. Accordingly, any pipeline operator contemplating construction of a pipeline over these areas will need to communicate with the Alpha companies and have a mitigation plan to deal with pipeline stresses or subsidence from mining techniques that may include room and pillar, surface mining, or full extraction underground mining, Alpha said.

The Alpha companies look forward to working with MVP to identify all areas of coal mining and reserves that could be impacted by the project, so that MVP can develop appropriate mitigation measures, Alpha added.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.