The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District has reinstated the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s (MVP) Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12 for four river crossings in West Virginia, but a stay issued last month by a federal appeals court remains in effect.
In a letter dated Tuesday, the Army Corps cited the less impactful but more time-consuming dry-ditch crossing method proposed for the Elk, Gauley, Greenbrier and Meadow river crossings in its determination to reinstate the NWP 12 with modifications. MVP posted notice of the reinstatement to the project docket this week [CP16-10].
Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit granted a motion to stay MVP’s NWP 12 pending a ruling on a legal challenge brought by the Sierra Club and other groups. A spokeswoman for MVP told NGI’s Shale Daily the pipeline would seek relief from the court’s stay following the Army Corps’ decision to reinstate the NWP 12.
The reinstatement “relates only to these four previously suspended crossings and will require MVP to utilize the dry-ditch crossing method, which is significantly more protective of the environment,” MVP’s Natalie Cox said. “While MVP is conducting other upland construction work, this reinstatement does not authorize MVP to conduct in-stream activities due to the stay imposed by the Fourth Circuit; however, with this reinstatement” by the Army Corps, “options are being evaluated to obtain relief from the stay.”
The NWP 12 is issued under Section 404 of the U.S. Clean Water Act (CWA) and allows contractors to trench through the bottom of streams and rivers. The Sierra Club earlier this year challenged the validity of MVP’s NWP 12 permit, arguing that the project could not meet a special condition in West Virginia requiring all stream crossings be constructed within 72 hours, an issue bearing on the four river crossings where the lengthier dry-ditch method was proposed.
The Army Corps had voluntarily issued a limited suspension of the NWP 12 for the four river crossings in the state. But the Sierra Club and others successfully argued to the Fourth Circuit that under Army Corps regulations, all portions of the NWP 12 permit must be stayed, putting nearly 600 MVP waterbody crossings in regulatory limbo.
The stay has put MVP’s target late 2018 in-service date in doubt, though Cox said following last month’s stay that the developer was still evaluating its options and had not revised the timeline.
As part of its rationale for waiving a state-issued CWA Section 401 water quality certification for MVP, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) had cited special state-specific conditions added to the NWP 12 permit. WVDEP had earlier withdrawn the CWA 401 issued to MVP after facing a court challenge.
MVP, which secured a FERC certificate in a rare split decision in October, began construction earlier this year. The 303-mile, 2 Bcf/d greenfield expansion is routed from West Virginia to Virginia, where it would connect with Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line to move Marcellus and Utica shale volumes to the Southeast. The project also recently launched an open season to extend the system into North Carolina.
MVP is a joint venture between EQT Midstream Partners LP, NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream LLC.