Mountain Valley Requests to Resume Construction
On behalf of joint venture Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, representing attorney Matthew Eggerding recently filed a letter with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requesting that a stop-work order be lifted.
The order was issued last October.
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. The project is the smaller of two 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.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline will be granted a new permit to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway. Mountain Valley said that the pipeline is 92% done and slated for completion. https://t.co/gz0DuZ2ai0 pic.twitter.com/tv0rTP66rx— Hanging H Companies LLC (@hanginghco) September 16, 2020
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 of that year, 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 2019, 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.
By October, work on the project ceased once again as the pipeline developer was ordered 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 required that the company submit court-ordered compliance to curb erosion and sedimentation.
A lawsuit cited the project developer for the violation of stormwater control measures more than 300 times. Those flaws have reportedly 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. 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 was still on schedule to complete stabilization and restoration work.
At the beginning of this year, FERC released an environmental impact statement concluding that while an 75-mile-long extension into North Carolina—also known as the MVP Southgate Project—could cause some environmental damage, they were favorable of the project moving forward.
The Commission also noted that the potential environmental damages could be reduced to less-than-significant levels through avoidance, minimization and mitigation proposed by the developer and staff.
At the time of the announcement, MVP Southgate spokesperson Shawn Day reported that the $468 million project was expected to break ground sometime this year with completion slated for 2021.
Project officials also added that since the expansion was announced, the MVP team had made more than 1,200 adjustments to its route, mostly based on landowner requests, engineering considerations and efforts to avoid sensitive resources. The team says it remains committed to collaborating with a variety of stakeholders, including landowners, federal and state agencies, local governments, tribes, community groups and non-governmental organizations.
In the letter, Eggerding has requested that FERC grant permission to resume all construction activities permitted by law of the over $5 billion pipeline by Sept. 25. The letter follows a reissued permit by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this month, stating that construction would not likely jeopardize protected species in the area.
However, according to The Roanoke Times, the joint venture still needs two key permits that were set aside after a federal appeals court sided with conservation groups. Following Eggerding’s request, the Sierra Club also issued a letter to FERC, writing that construction couldn’t commence until all federal authorizations were obtained. The letter—which includes a notice of intent to sue the Army Corps—was written by senior attorney Elly Benson and was co-signed by other environmental groups.
Regardless, company spokesperson Natalie Cox reported in an email that Mountain Valley was already preparing for FERC to approve the order. “The MVP project team has been working on detailed construction schedules and plans in order to safely resume forward construction activities in the most efficient manner possible.
“MVP continues to target its early 2021 full in-service date and the crews will resume activities as soon as possible once we receive approval to do so.”
Should FERC favor Mountain Valley, the joint venture is expected to have as many as 4,000 construction workers return to the project across the two Virginias.
At the time of writing this article, no response from FERC had been reported.