Equitrans Midstream company will change its strategy for the completion of its $6 billion Mountain Valley project; instead of pursuing grouped permits to cross nearly 500 streams and wetlands in Virginia and West Virginia, it will pursue individual permits for each open-cut crossing.
Although it will be more costly and time consuming for the already delayed and cost-inflated project, Mountain Valley’s attorney and Chief Sustainability Officer, Todd Normane, said to the Federal Regulatory Commission this strategy “is the most efficient and effective path to project completion.”
As we have reported previously, the project has endured strong opposition from environmental groups; they argue the pipeline would harm almost 1000 waterbodies in Virginia and West Virginia.
By mid-November, 2020, the company had only the Nationwide Permit 12, which granted grouped permits for the trespassing of those water bodies; nevertheless, groups like Sierra Club, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, considered Nationwide Permit 12 illegal.
Federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has twice set aside such permit, as it considers Equitrans has failed to adequately asses the impacts the project could cause to the environment. In November, the court lifted a stay to construction, only to be slowed again in early January.
Equitrans expects to have the project completed by years end
FERC, on a split vote of 2-2, denied Equitrans’ request to complete construction and final restoration work along the project’s first 77 miles. FERC Commissioner, Richard Glick, then said, as reported by local news media.
“The reason the commission doesn’t authorize construction in the absence in a permit is that it makes no sense to enable a developer to begin digging up land and laying down the pipe when it may be that the subsequent permit is never obtained or it may be that the route of the project has to change because of the conditions associated with the subsequent permit.”
Now, the company is changing the strategy; it still expects to complete the project by year’s end, with an estimated cost of $6 billion, nearly twice of its original estimated cost. The project originally was due to start operations in 2018.
The 303-mile project intends to take natural gas from the shale Marcellus and Utica formations to West Virginia’s and Virginia’s market.