FERC has ordered Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) to stop all construction work because of a July 27 court order that rescinded the 303-mile, 42-inch diameter project’s authority to build across federal lands.
The order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated decisions by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that allowed MVP to cross the Jefferson National Forest (JNF) in Giles and Montgomery counties, VA, and Monroe County, WV.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Terry Turpin, director of the Office of Energy Projects, told MVP in a letter Friday that while USFS and BLM may issue new right-of-way grants to address the court’s requirements, the revisions could require MVP’s route to change.
“Should the agencies authorize alternative routes, MVP may need to revise substantial portions of the project route across non-federal lands, possibly requiring further authorizations and environmental review,” Turpin said. “Accordingly, allowing continued construction poses the risk of expending substantial resources and substantially disturbing the environment by constructing facilities that ultimately might have to be relocated or abandoned.
“MVP is hereby notified that construction activity along all portions of the project and in all work areas must cease immediately, with the exception of any measures deemed necessary by those land managing agencies or FERC staff to ensure the stabilization of the right-of-way and work areas.”
The setback with the USFS and BLM authorizations comes after the Fourth Circuit stayed MVP’s Nationwide Permit 12 for waterbody crossings in West Virginia. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which issued the permit, has since reinstated the NWP 12 and asked the court to lift the stay.
Construction of MVP was also temporarily suspended in Virginia last month because of erosion and sediment control issues amid recent heavy rainfall.
Washington, DC-based ClearView Energy Partners LLC said it was already expecting delays for MVP after the NWP 12 was stayed and that FERC’s stop-work order stands to delay the project even further.
“Although the Corps reissued the NWP 12...we had not been particularly optimistic that the Fourth Circuit would lift the stay now in place (and the Fourth Circuit may extend it anyway),” ClearView analysts said. “In the interim, work was continuing in other areas, including in Virginia. All work is now halted...adding to the delays we originally expected.”
MVP is a joint venture of EQT Midstream Partners LP (EQM), NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream LLC.
MVP said in a statement Monday that it believes USFS and BLM will be able to satisfy the court’s requirements and “that the two agencies will work quickly to supplement their initial records. In addition, we are confident that the BLM has reached the correct conclusion during their initial analysis of alternatives in the JNF and agree that MVP’s current route has the least overall impact to the environment.
“MVP had previously halted operations in the JNF, with exception of work needed to manage any unnecessary environmental erosion and maintain slope stability,” the operator said. “We will continue to closely coordinate with all agencies to resolve these challenges as they work to have the right-of-way grants reissued. While disappointed with this recent setback, MVP is confident in the BLM’s alternatives analysis, as well as with the approvals received by state and federal agencies; and we look forward to continuing the safe construction of this important project.”
MVP said it continues to target a 1Q2019 in-service date, as outlined by management for EQT Midstream parent EQT Corp. during a recent conference call.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said Monday that it “will have consultants on site throughout the stoppage” to ensure proper site stabilization.
“The only work currently underway in Virginia is site stabilization,” DEQ Director David K. Paylor said. “Virginia’s laws give DEQ the authority to ensure the infrastructure is stabilized -- and remains stabilized -- for as long as the stop work order is in place.”
Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA), whose southwest Virginia district is intersected by the proposed MVP route, also weighed in on the stop work order.
After the appeals court ruling, “FERC’s decision to stop work on MVP is appropriate,” Griffith said. “If the pipeline cannot be constructed through the forest, it does not make sense to proceed with disturbing other people’s lands that may never connect to a pipeline.”