FERC has approved Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC’s (MVP) plan to temporarily stabilize parts of its route during an indefinite work stoppage required after an appeals court vacated key federal authorizations for the 300-mile, 2 Bcf/d project.

MVP submitted the stabilization plan last week in response to an Aug. 3 order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requiring all project construction to stop as the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reissue key approvals vacated last month by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

MVP’s plan proposed installing up to 80 miles of additional pipeline, conducting limited work on compressor stations and interconnects, and other cleanup efforts to prevent adverse environmental impacts, with the operator noting that “temporarily stopping work on the project has the potential to cause impacts to sensitive environmental resources that would not have been caused with continued work.”

FERC’s Terry Turpin, director of the Office of Energy Projects, acknowledged in an order Friday that “the shutdown presents challenges for stabilization and restoration, and we agree that there are some clear advantages to allowing some limited construction activities to proceed to prevent potential safety and environmental impacts.”

Turpin said some proposed construction activities are still under review and that FERC staff may request additional information from MVP.

MVP “must also seek concurrence from appropriate agencies,” including BLM, USFS and the Army Corps of Engineers, for any construction activities proposed on federal lands, Turpin said.

After securing a FERC certificate last fall following a contentious review process, MVP began construction earlier this year but has encountered regulatory and legal setbacks. Management for backer EQT Inc. recently pushed the pipeline’s target start date back about three months to 1Q2019.

MVP is a joint venture of EQT Midstream Partners LP, NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream LLC.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) has found itself in a similar situation, with FERC late last week ordering all construction on that project to stop after the same appeals court vacated a right-of-way issued by the National Park Service authorizing the pipeline to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway.

MVP and ACP both aim to cross the West Virginia/Virginia border to deliver Marcellus and Utica shale gas tomarkets in the Southeast, with both planning interconnects with the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line (Transco). The projects have faced criticism over their similarities, with FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur suggesting collocating the projects to reduce environmental impacts.

ACP, backed by Dominion Energy Inc., Duke Energy Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas, is targeting a 2019 in-service date.