Federal & State Legal Proceedings for Mountain Valley Pipeline Continue Month After Month

by Duane Nichols on March 31, 2023

Mountain Valley Pipeline Traverses Incredibly Rough Terrain Crossing Rivers & Streams

Court Upholds Virginia’s MVP Water Permit, But Ruling Forthcoming on West Virginia Approval

From an Article by Jeremiah Shelor, Natural Gas Intelligence, March 30, 2023
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has upheld a crucial water quality permit issued to the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) by Virginia state regulators, keeping the project on track to potentially resume and complete construction later this year.

However, a forthcoming ruling on a water quality permit issued by the state of West Virginia could bring fresh setbacks for the embattled 300-mile, 2 million Dth/d Appalachian natural gas export pipeline, according to analysts.

In a ruling published Wednesday, the Fourth Circuit denied a petition to review the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to approve MVP under state water quality standards.

In rebuffing the petition, filed by a coalition of opposition groups, the Fourth Circuit concluded, in part, that Virginia regulators had “considered a variety of factors in determining that the construction and operation of the pipeline would comply” with state water quality standards.

Still, the state-level water quality permit issued to MVP by neighboring West Virginia may also have to withstand judicial scrutiny in order to keep the project on track.

The Fourth Circuit heard oral argument in a case challenging the West Virginia water quality permit back in October “but has yet to issue a ruling,” analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC said in a note to clients. “We explained then that we thought it is likely that the court would return the permit to West Virginia for additional work, but that the real question is whether the court remands it without vacating it, too.”

Whether or not the court vacates the West Virginia permit could prove critical for the timeline of the pending Army Corps of Engineers Clean Water Act Section 404 permit, which requires the state water-quality approvals to be in place, the ClearView analysts said.

Information posted to MVP’s federal permitting dashboard indicates the Army Corps plans to issue the Section 404 permit by late April.

“If a court believes that the agency can resolve the shortcomings in a permit and would likely arrive at the same decision (in this case approval), the court can remand the permit” but preserve its legal validity, the ClearView analysts said. “Most of MVP’s schedule delays have arisen from judicial challenges that resulted in permits being vacated.”

MVP is a joint venture of EQM Midstream Partners LP; NextEra Capital Holdings Inc.; Con Edison Transmission Inc.; WGL Midstream; and RGC Midstream LLC.

Project backers have said work on the pipeline is roughly 94% complete and that they plan to bring the pipeline into service in the second half of 2023.

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