The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has given Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) permission to resume construction on parts of its pipeline running through West Virginia to Virginia.
The 303 mile MVP extension is one of several U.S. oil and gas pipelines that have been delayed in recent years by regulatory and legal fights with environmental groups.
Construction Starts, Stops, Restarts
The MVP, with construction costs exceeding $5 billion, is designed to transport 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Marcellus-Utica shale fields for use in commercial buildings and residences in the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic areas of the United States. Equitrans, MVP’s lead developer, secured contracts for the gas it would deliver and began construction of the pipeline in February 2018, believing it would secure all permits and rights of way, allowing it to complete construction by the end of 2018. Instead, challenges filed in regulatory hearings and federal courts by local and national environmental groups have delayed MVP’s completion.
In 2019, a federal court halted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) required assessment of MVP’s potential impacts on animal species, stating the FWS’ discussion of the possible effects on particular species of bat was inadequate. Subsequently, FERC issued a stop-work order halting construction of the pipeline, pending the completion of an expanded federal species impact assessment.
The FWS issued its detailed Biological Opinion in September, which determined the pipeline would not threaten at risk species, including the bat species in question.
With this assessment in hand, FERC lifted its stop-work order on construction on October 9. FERC’s order also extended MVP’s construction permit by an additional two years, allowing the project to move forward, except on parts of the route where permits for construction are still pending.
“Based on staff’s review of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project, we agree that completion of construction and final restoration … where permitted, is best for the environment and affected landowners,” the Commission wrote in its order allowing construction to restart.
Completion Requires Further Approvals
Absent further legal roadblocks, Equitrans can now complete construction on all but approximately eight percent of the pipeline for which permits are still needed.
MVP has permit requests pending with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for parts of the pipeline near or crossing waterways, and with the U.S. Forest Service for 25 miles of the pipeline that would pass through a national forest.
Equitrans reports it expects to receive remaining permits by the end of the year or in early 2021, allowing it to complete construction of MVP and bring it into operation by the end of 2021.
“We agree with the FERC’s assessment that completion of construction and final restoration is best for the environment and the affected landowners; and we are pleased with the FERC’s authorization for forward construction to resume along the majority of the MVP route,” Natalie Cox, director of corporate communications with Equitrans, said in a statement, according to The Hill.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute.