The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and related Equitrans Expansion Project (EEP) received a favorable final environmental impact statement (FEIS) from FERC Friday, paving the way for a potential certificate decision later this year.

Staff for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made the conclusions in a 900-plus page FEIS for MVP [CP16-10] and EEP [CP16-13]. The projects, said staff, “would result in limited adverse environmental impacts, with the exception of impacts on forest…We conclude that approval of the projects would result in some adverse environmental impacts, but the majority of these impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.”

FERC outlined numerous mitigation plans established to build the projects, including specific measures to address impacts from a section of MVP that would cross through the Jefferson National Forest.

“The FERC staff, MVP project team and members of numerous other federal and state agencies have been continuously engaging with landowners, businesses, nonprofit groups, and community members in an effort to accurately evaluate, develop and revise plans for the proposed MVP pipeline,” project spokeswoman Natalie Cox told NGI. “These efforts have produced a thoughtfully-designed route and led to the development of comprehensive plans to mitigate any potential impacts to the greatest extent possible.”

The 304-mile, 42-inch diameter MVP is designed to transport about 2 Bcf/d of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shales to an interconnect with the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line in Pittsylvania County, VA. The project is fully subscribed under 20-year firm commitments.

The project also consists of three new compressor stations and four meter and regulating stations, along with related equipment.

EQT Midstream Partners LP would operate MVP as part of a joint venture with NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream LLC.

The EEP is designed to transport up to 600,000 Dth/d of supply to interconnects with MVP and other pipelines. The project, operated by a subsidiary of EQT Midstream, would consist of seven miles of pipeline and a 31,300 hp compressor station in Greene County, PA, along with related equipment.

MVP and EEP now await a final certificate decision from FERC, which is still without a quorum as Trump administration nominees make their way through the Senate, albeit more slowly than industry would like. MVP is targeting a in-service date in 4Q2018, with construction planned to start later this year.

MVP is one of two major greenfield projects proposed to connect Appalachian Basin gas to markets in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic by traveling through sensitive mountainous terrain along the West Virginia/Virginia border. Both MVP and the similarly routed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) have faced pushback from environmentalists and some landowners, stirring enough controversy to inspire a Democratic primary challenger in Virginia’s gubernatorial race to oppose the projects as part of his platform.

“This FEIS comes after three years of project planning and development, and takes into account recommendations from the FERC’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) issued in September 2016,” Cox said. “The FEIS also considers and includes the analyzed data from civil and environmental surveys that have been conducted, as well as the comments, considerations and concerns of landowners, community members, government agencies and local elected officials along the proposed route.

“With that, it’s important to note that since the project’s inception, MVP has adopted 14 route alternative segments and 701 minor route adjustments, the majority of which were based on various landowner requests, avoidance of sensitive and/or cultural and historic resources or engineering considerations.”

The 600-mile, 1.5 Bcf/d ACP, which filed its application around the same time as MVP, expects to receive its FEIS from FERC later this summer.