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Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline Ceases

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

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The Mountain Valley Pipeline project has lost three important sets of permits, bringing construction to a halt. The permits were suspended in connection with the project’s impact on the environment, according to reports.

Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered construction to cease until the latest legal issue could be resolved.

Mountain Valley Pipeline History

The pipeline is owned and being constructed by Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC—a joint venture between EQT Midstream Partners LP, NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream LLC. Once complete, the pipeline is slated to be operated by EQT Midstream Partners.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline is expected to run from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, cutting through the Jefferson National Forest. Being 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.

On July 27, 2018, an order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit turned over prior decisions made by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service authorizing construction of the 303-mile pipeline. In early August, the U.S. Federal Regulatory Commission ordered work on the pipeline to cease, alleging that two U.S. agencies had not fully examined the projects.

A few months later, in October, the project was blocked yet again, but this time by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, suspending a permit that would allow the pipeline to cross more than 500 streams and wetlands in southwest Virginia. The following month, MVP filed an application with FERC for a 73-mile Southgate permit pipeline extension.

In mid-July, FERC released a request for “toxicological, environmental and health information” from the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s corporate attorney regarding the coatings used on the project’s 42-inch diameter steel pipe. In August, project developers told federal regulators that the coating in question, specifically on stretches in Virginia and West Virginia, does not pose a threat of harm. Also in August, the developers voluntarily suspended construction on stretches of the pipeline in light of a recent lawsuit that sought to address concerns about the project’s impact on local endangered species.

Recent Developments

According to The Roanoke Times, the pipeline developer will have to pay $2.15 million to resolve a lawsuit brought on by Virginia regulators. In the lawsuit, the accusing party cited repeated violations of environmental standards. The agreement also requires that the company submit court-ordered compliance to curb erosion and sedimentation.

“The decree stipulates that MVP will be automatically fined for any violations of the terms of this agreement with the Commonwealth of Virginia, while also imposing a significant fine for past noncompliance,” said David Paylor, director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

A lawsuit dating to last December cited the project developer for the violation of stormwater control measures more than 300 times. The flaws have been corrected and the company has agreed to certain conditions including independent inspections, but those carrying out the investigations must be monitors approved by the DEQ.

In light of the loss of so many permits, Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, called for the stop-work order from FERC. Though the case is under consideration by the courts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to decide whether to reissue permits associated with crossing streams in Virginia and West Virginia. The third permit is connected to Jefferson National Forest.

Mountain Valley’s assistant general counsel, Matthew Eggerding, noted in a letter to FERC that pipeline installation had been completed in nearly all accessible areas, though this does not include the areas at issue. Otherwise, the company is still on schedule to complete stabilization and restoration work.

   

Tagged categories: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); Infrastructure; Lawsuits; NA; North America; Pipelines; Program/Project Management

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