Mountain Valley Ceases Pipeline Work
Late last week, Mountain Valley Pipeline 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.
In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the developers noted the cessation of work includes new activities that could threaten endangered species and relevant habitats. What remains uncertain is how much of the pipeline will be impacted.
About the Project
Owned and still 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.
Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have suspended work on parts of the embattled project, three days after a lawsuit raised questions about its impact on endangered species. https://t.co/GPdA5IAeHu— ReThink Energy NJ (@rethinkenergynj) August 18, 2019
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. Earlier this month, 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.
Cessation of Work
Developer spokesperson Natalie Cox told The Roanoke Times in an email that the voluntary suspension “pertains to areas along the route that may potentially have an impact related to the Endangered Species Act,” but that work was also assumed to continue on other areas of the pipeline, where permitted.
The completion date is also still slated for 2020, along with the same number of employees being retained for work. To date, the project has laid out 238 miles of pipe.
The areas at issue include 75 miles of pipeline, located in the counties of Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania. Another 20-mile stretch in West Virginia is also under the suspended work measure.
MVP would also cease tree-felling in wooded areas that serve as homes for endangered bats, but, according to Jared Margolis, who serves as a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, many of the trees have already been cut down.
Last Monday, an environmental group collective voiced protest against a 2017 opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the pipeline project did not inflict harm on endangered species. A stop-work order was also issued roughly two weeks ago on a stretch of the pipeline running through Montgomery County, Virginia, due to issues with erosion and sediment control.
Two permits previously lost have yet to be regained: one that would have the pipeline run through national forest, and another that would have the pipeline cut through streams and wetlands.
FERC also told MVP that construction may not be resumed in areas affected by the voluntary cessation of work unless approval is sought first.