Seeking to wrap up construction on a project long ensnared in a tangle of legal and regulatory complications, Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC (MVP) will pursue a new strategy to obtain the waterbody and wetlands crossing approvals that represent the natural gas conduit’s final permitting hurdle.
Instead of waiting out the legal process on its stayed Nationwide Permit 12 waterbody crossing permits, the pipeline will submit a new joint application to the Huntington, Pittsburgh and Norfolk districts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVP’s deputy general counsel Todd Normane wrote in a letter to federal agencies and state regulators in Virginia and West Virginia Tuesday.
MVP will seek permitting to use open cut techniques for certain waterbodies and wetlands under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The application will also address streams regulated under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, according to Normane.
At the same time, MVP will apply for a certificate amendment from FERC addressing waterbody crossings and “any other” approvals needed from the agency. MVP will withdraw an earlier certificate amendment application seeking to alter crossing methods for the first 77 miles of the project.
“To facilitate the Districts’ review of the forthcoming application Mountain Valley will request that the Corps’ Huntington, Pittsburgh, and Norfolk Districts administratively revoke the previously issued Nationwide Permit 12 verifications for the Project when appropriate,” Normane wrote. “At that point, we expect to seek dismissal of the existing litigation challenging those verifications as moot.”
As part of its plan, MVP will be seeking water quality certifications from regulators in Virginia and West Virginia under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.
While not outright asking for an expedited review, Normane alluded to the extensive regulatory process MVP has undergone to date since it was first certificated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2017.
The operator “believes the time and resource necessary to complete these reviews should be minimized by the fact that the forthcoming submissions will consist primarily of minor changes to construction practices that address the environmental impacts the Corps and FERC have already considered,” Normane wrote. Likewise, the state reviews “will build upon the applications previously considered by the respective state agencies.”
MVP’s new strategy follows a change in leadership at FERC under the Biden administration. New Chairman Richard Glick, a Democrat, has said FERC should require MVP to have all necessary permits in hand before resuming construction anywhere along the project route.
Under Glick’s direction, this would ostensibly make the Nationwide Permit 12 approvals — stayed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit late last year — a major obstacle to future FERC authorizations needed for MVP to finish construction.
MVP maintains that at this point finalizing construction remains the best path forward for all stakeholders, according to Normane.
“Although the project has been largely constructed, substantial segments of the right-of-way remain disturbed but temporarily stabilized,” Normane wrote. “Mountain Valley cannot permanently restore the soils and vegetation on these segments of the right-of-way until construction is complete.
“We have also heard from many landowners along the route who have suffered from the delays caused by ongoing legal challenges that they want Mountain Valley to complete the construction, achieve final restoration and return their lands for their private use.”
The 303-mile MVP is a joint venture between EQM Midstream Partners LP, NextEra Capital Holdings Inc., Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream LLC. The project would move 2 million Dth/d from West Virginia to Virginia where it would interconnect with the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line to target markets in the Southeast.
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