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FERC Halts Pipeline Construction

Thursday, August 9, 2018

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Late last week the U.S. Federal Regulatory Commission ordered work on the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would transport natural gas from West Virginia hydrofracking operations, to cease, alleging that two U.S. agencies had not fully examined the projects.

The filing follows a July 27 order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that turned over prior decisions made by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service authorizing construction of the pipeline.

Mountain Valley Pipeline

If built, the Mountain Valley pipeline would run from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, cutting through Jefferson National Forest. The pipeline will be owned and built by Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, which is a joint venture between EQT Midstream Partners LP; NextEra US Gas Assets LLC; Con Edison Transmission Inc.; WGL Midstream; and RGC Midstream LLC. EQT Midstream Partners will operate the pipeline.

Using gas from Marcellus and Utica shale production, the pipeline will deliver 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day. According to Reuters, 1 billion cubic feet is enough to power 5 million U.S. homes for the same amount of time. Currently, the design indicates the pipeline will be “42 inches in diameter and will require approximately 50 feet of permanent easement (with 125 feet of temporary easement during construction),” according to the project website.

Before FERC’s decision, the pipeline was slated for completion in the first quarter of 2019, after an initial delay from completion in 2018. As it stands, the project may not enter service until the fourth quarter of next year.

FERC Decision

FERC’s decision, which is being counted as a victory among environmental groups, is being evaluated by EQT Midstream partners. Spokesperson Natalie Cox told The Washington Post that the ruling allowed other federal agencies to redo permits. The work in question seems to be restricted to Jefferson National Forest, which accounts for “1 percent of the overall project route,” Cox told the Post in an email.

A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that both the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service had not properly reviewed the project’s impact on the national forest. The panel ordered the agencies to reconsider the permits, this time using proper procedure.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline is the smaller of two such projects currently underway in the state of Virginia; the other is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is twice as long and passes through the center of the state, but does not cut through Jefferson National Forest.

“In its arrogance, MVP thought it could treat a federal court’s rejection of Forest Service and BLM approvals as a mere speed bump that it could easily evade,” advocacy group Wild Virginia said.
 
“Even FERC, in its zeal to enable the industry, has recognized that is an unsupportable approach.”

   

Tagged categories: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); Government; Infrastructure; Pipelines; Project Management

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