Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Allowing the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) Construction to Proceed

by admin on April 2, 2021

Mountain Valley Pipeline under construction in Virginia

FERC rejects bid to halt Mountain Valley Pipeline construction

From an Article by Arianna Skibell, E & E News, March 25, 2021

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has denied a bid to stop construction on parts of the embattled Mountain Valley pipeline, despite a stern rebuke from the agency’s two Democratic members.

Mountain Valley “lacks the federal authorizations required to cross over 700 waterbodies and wetlands along the project route,” FERC Chair Richard Glick and Commissioner Allison Clements, both Democrats, wrote in their dissent. “Under these circumstances, allowing piecemeal construction of a project that is still awaiting critical federal authorizations is inconsistent with any reasonable reading of [the pipeline's certificate], not to mention our responsibilities to the landowners, communities, and others who have interests at stake in this proceeding.”

The dispute stems from a FERC decision in December, when the agency — then under Republican leadership — voted to allow the 303-mile natural gas pipeline to resume construction between certain mileposts near the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia. A group of environmental advocates led by the Sierra Club contested the ruling.

Republican Commissioners Neil Chatterjee, James Danly and Mark Christie, representing the majority, bypassed Glick’s objections and issued the order denying the Sierra Club challenge yesterday.

While Glick is chair and controls the agency’s agenda, the order marks the limitation of his power without a majority of Democrats on the panel. Chatterjee’s term expires in June, and President Biden is expected to appoint a Democrat to take his place.

The order does not change the status of the $6 billion project that would carry natural gas through West Virginia and Virginia, as Mountain Valley developers resumed construction following FERC’s decision in December and favorable legal rulings.

But the project has faced a series of delays and legal battles and currently lacks a number of permits required for completion, including one to cut through part of the Jefferson National Forest. Financial analysts have predicted that further delays could doom the project.

Wild Virginia, an environmental group that opposes the pipeline, said a stay of the commission’s December order “would have prevented further damage to valuable and sensitive environments along a 17-mile route through our mountains and forests.”

“However, this failure by the Commission, to act responsibly and uphold the public interest, will not stop or slow our efforts to end the MVP once and for all,” said David Sligh, the group’s conservation director, in a statement, using an abbreviation for the project. “Where FERC and other agencies have repeatedly failed us, we seek the court’s intervention and believe we have a great chance of success in those suits.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the Sierra Club’s request to stop construction last month. The case is now pending judicial review, but the court has not set a timeline for its decision.

Analysts at research firm ClearView Energy Partners LLC noted yesterday’s order marks “no change to MVP’s current construction authorizations” but pointed out that Glick and Clements’ dissent offers the Sierra Club a wellspring of legal arguments to draw on in any future litigation.

“We expect the Sierra Club to rely heavily on the dissents (Glick’s from the December order and the joint dissent in today’s order) in their appeal,” ClearView said in a note to clients.


Senators Kaine and Warner voice concerns about MVP stream crossings

From the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) Update #305 – April 2, 2021

Virginia’s two U.S. Senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, have written Richard Glick, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), to express concerns they have heard from constituents about confusion on recent filings with the agency by Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (MVP, LLC).

Their March 26 letter asked that the comment period for the public to express their views to FERC be extended by at least 60 days.

The Senators also raised the issue of MVP, LLC’s plans to bore underneath streams, stating:

The environmental impacts of the newly proposed trenchless technology, such as conventional direct bore, horizontal direct drilling (HDD), and “microtunnelling,” are not yet fully understood by impacted parties in Virginia. Boring allows for work to occur up to and under the waterways, which could require blasting and excavation of bore pits required for drilling under water crossings.

As groundwater is often the sole source for drinking water in rural communities, our constituents are concerned that the boring process could affect local watersheds and household access to water.

Constituents have also expressed concern about impacts to endangered species and critical habitats that could result from boring.

It is our understanding that the Commission will review these concerns though a supplemental environmental document under the National Environmental Policy Act. We urge the Commission to provide another public comment period after the environmental document is published, and that ample time is afforded for stakeholders to review and respond to that supplemental document.

Given the unfamiliarity of the proposed boring methods to our constituents, we understand there are many questions and concerns about how this process will impact their daily lives. A detailed environmental survey and a substantial comment period will bring additional transparency and public engagement to FERC’s regulatory process.

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