The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has authorized the construction restart of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and work is expected to begin soon to complete the long-delayed project.
FERC issued an order June 28, just weeks after Congress inserted language into a bill to raise the debt ceiling ordering federal agencies to approve the pipeline’s completion and prohibiting courts from reviewing the project further. Completion of the 303-mile pipeline that will run across West Virginia and Virginia, carrying natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica plays in the Appalachian region to the south, has been stalled due to numerous legal and permitting challenges.
The project was originally expected to be completed in 2018 at an estimated cost of $3 billion but that date was repeatedly pushed back as legal challenges from environmental groups delayed work and costs escalated. Equitrans Midstream, operator of the MVP, intends to complete construction by the end of 2023 at a total cost of about $6.6 billion, according to a company release. The project is a joint project of Canonsburg-based Equitrans and several other partners.
The debt-ceiling legislation also compelled the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue all permits needed to finish construction and it issued the final permit several days before the FERC order.
An Equitrans spokeswoman told media outlets that construction of the last section of the MVP should start shortly and the pipeline should be operational by winter. The project is about 94% complete, and about 20 linear miles that were the subject of environmental challenges remains to be built.
Environmental groups that have fought against the pipeline’s construction pledged to continue their efforts.
“It is foolhardy of FERC to take this step while serious questions about the legality of some of Mountain Valley’s permits are still unresolved. We know that the MVP cannot be built in compliance with our nation’s bedrock environmental laws - which is why the company and its supporters went to the extraordinary length of having Congress attempt to sidestep them,” said Peter Anderson, Virginia policy director for Appalachian Voices, in a statement. “We will continue to stand by community members and hold MVP, LLC, accountable using any and all available means.”
Appalachian Voices, the Sierra Club, and several other groups also filed a legal challenge to any dismissal of their lawsuits and to the provision in the debt bill that mandated the MVP’s completion. In the appeal, the groups argue that the provision that stripped the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals from making any rulings is unconstitutional.