Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, beset by legal and regulatory hurdles that have pushed back the startup of its 303-mile, 2 million Dth/d Appalachian natural gas conduit, has asked FERC for a two-year extension to bring the project online.
Citing “unforeseen litigation and permitting delays” outside of the project’s control, MVP in a filing Tuesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asked to extend the three-year deadline for completing construction stipulated in the project’s October 2017 certificate order.
Between direct challenges and “litigation associated with other infrastructure projects,” MVP has hit snags over approvals from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Park Service, the pipeline’s backers told FERC.
“Despite these permitting issues, Mountain Valley has made substantial progress to complete construction and achieve final restoration where able while continuing to focus on environmental protection and safety,” they said.
MVP has installed and backfilled 253 miles of pipeline and restored 155 miles of the project right-of-way. The developer has also completed construction of all three compressor stations associated with the project, MVP told FERC.
“As a result of litigation and associated work stoppages, many areas of the project have been, and continue to be, subject to temporary stabilization measures rather than final restoration, and landowner impacts have continued,” MVP said.
According to Tuesday’s filing, the developer expects to receive all revised Endangered Species Act approvals from the USFWS “shortly,” while a supplemental environmental impact statement from the USFS is expected later this year.
MVP also expects the Park Service to issue a new right-of-way for MVP to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway, and developers have submitted Nationwide Permit 12 applications “to the relevant districts” of the Army Corps.
“Mountain Valley expects to receive all of these permits by the end of 2020,” MVP said.
A two-year extension is “necessary and proper” given uncertainty over when the pipeline will obtain these permits.
“Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, opposition groups have sought to delay the issuance of these new and reissued permits for the project and stated their intention to continue litigating these permits in the hopes of delaying or cancelling the project, regardless of the merits,” MVP wrote. “By their actions, these groups lengthen the time Mountain Valley relies on temporary erosion control devices and forestall the environmental benefits and protections associated with final restoration, to the detriment of landowners and the environment.”
Seemingly from the start, MVP has been the subject of controversy. Perhaps foreshadowing the legal battles that would come, even the pipeline’s FERC certificate arrived in a split decision. The similarly-routed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, approved at the same time and also in a split decision, encountered its own host of setbacks and was shelved earlier this year.
The 42-inch diameter MVP is designed to transport Marcellus and Utica shale gas from West Virginia into Virginia, where it would interconnect with the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line’s Station 165 compressor in Pittsylvania County.
EQM Midstream Partners LP would operate MVP and own “significant interest” in the pipeline, which is a joint venture with NextEra Capital Holdings Inc., Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream LLC.
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