With its revised Endangered Species Act review now completed, Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC (MVP) is seeking FERC authorization to restart construction activities that have been on hold since an October 2019 order.

MVP

In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Tuesday, MVP asked the agency to allow construction on the 300-mile, 2 million Dth/d interstate natural gas pipeline to resume by the end of the week to allow the company to “maximize final restoration and complete as many activities as possible before winter.”

Now that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed an updated Biological Opinion for the pipeline — a process set in motion after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stayed the Biological Opinion issued to the pipeline in 2017 — the basis for FERC’s October 2019 order to suspend construction activities no longer applies, MVP said.

“The September 2020 Biological Opinion supersedes and replaces the November 2017 Biological Opinion” that was the subject of the court’s stay, the pipeline operator noted.

Resuming construction would carry benefits for both the environment and landowners, MVP argued. Environmentally speaking, completing construction and finishing restoration is preferable to temporary stabilization, according to the pipeline’s letter.

Meanwhile, “because of court actions and associated work stoppages…affected landowners have dealt with active or idled/incomplete workspaces, pipe strung on cribbing, construction equipment, regular maintenance/repair of erosion and sediment control devices, and other project impacts on their properties for more than two and a half years,” MVP said, adding that wrapping up construction would allow these landowners to “resume using their own land as intended.”

According to the developer, MVP is currently 92% through construction, with 256 miles of pipe in the ground and 155 miles of final restoration completed.

The construction activities requested in Tuesday’s letter would not affect a segment of the project that crosses through the Jefferson National Forest that is the subject of a separate order suspending construction.

Over the past three years, MVP has faced numerous legal and regulatory hurdles in its effort to construct a route for Marcellus and Utica shale gas to travel southeast out of West Virginia to an interconnect with the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line in southwestern Virginia.

MVP received its FERC certificate in a split decision in October 2017, and since that time opposition groups working through the courts have succeeded in stalling construction progress, forcing the pipeline to recently seek a two-year extension of its original federal deadline to wrap up work on the project.

MVP recently told FERC it expects to have all remaining permits in hand by the end of this year. 

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.