The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) has again been ordered to temporarily stop work on a small stretch of the project in southern West Virginia so a circuit court judge may review a pending appeal filed by landowners and environmental organizations.  

Summers County Circuit Court Judge Robert Irons issued the stay on Tuesday, halting work on the pipeline’s crossing of the Greenbrier River in Pence Springs. It came in response to a motion filed last week by the Greenbrier River Watershed Association, Indian Creek Watershed Association and three landowners.

The plaintiffs had filed a challenge to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) decision to issue a Natural Streams Preservation Act (NSPA) permit that was eventually denied by the state Environmental Quality Board. In its motion, the group said a stay was necessary to prevent “this appeal from becoming moot and irreparable damage or harm to petitioners. Otherwise, MVP’s project will be complete” in the area by the time the court hears the appeal. Tree clearing had already begun on one of the landowners’ property.

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Irons agreed and set the case’s next hearing for Oct. 23.

MVP management, which has faced other work stoppages and regulatory delays that have pushed back in-service on the 2 Bcf/d project from late 2018 to late 2019, said it was disappointed by the decision. Spokesperson Natalie Cox said the sponsors are evaluating their legal options and are confident in a favorable outcome.

“The NSPA was enacted to protect the free-flowing characteristics of specific streams in West Virginia, and the WVDEP and the Environmental Quality Board concluded that MVP’s activities will not materially alter or affect the free-flowing characteristics of the Greenbrier River,” Cox said. “The challenge to MVP’s permit primarily focused on water quality protection, which is outside the scope of the NSPA.”

Work along the project’s entire 303-mile route was stopped by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission early last month after a federal court vacated key permits from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) related to a crossing of the Jefferson National Forest. The order was lifted, and construction along most of the route resumed, but a work stoppage is still in effect that covers another 25 miles until the USFS and BLM issue revised permits. 

MVP would move Appalachian natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia and connect with the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line to deliver more volumes to Southeast markets.