North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) did not adequately explain its decision to deny a water quality certificate for Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC’s (MVP) Southgate expansion project, a federal appeals court has ruled.

MVP

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in a ruling handed down late last week granted a petition filed by MVP seeking to vacate the DEQ’s decision last August to deny state certification for the project. 

MVP’s Southgate project would consist of 75 miles of 16-inch and 24-inch diameter line to extend the original 303-mile, 2 million Dth/d mainline project’s reach into North Carolina. At the time, the DEQ predicated its decision to deny the certification, required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, on uncertainty surrounding the mainline project’s completion given multiple legal and regulatory setbacks.

However, the Fourth Circuit said the DEQ “failed to explain why it chose to deny certification instead of conditioning certification upon the Mainline Project receiving its permits.” The court ordered the state’s environmental regulator to revisit its decision and explain its rationale.

Still, the ruling may provide only limited relief to MVP, which has dealt with adverse decisions from the Fourth Circuit previously. The court appeared to take issue only with the DEQ’s explanation of its decision and not the decision itself, finding that DEQ’s “denial is consistent with the state’s regulations and the Clean Water Act.”

Meanwhile, MVP continues to work toward completion of its mainline, recently disclosing a new strategy to obtain waterbody crossing permits needed to wrap up construction on the oft-delayed project.

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 pipeline is designed to transport Marcellus and Utica shale gas from West Virginia into Virginia.

The Southgate extension would receive gas from MVP in Virginia and transport it to new delivery points in Rockingham and Alamance counties, NC.