Pittsburgh-based EQT Midstream Partners LP expects its Mountain Valley Pipeline to continue as scheduled despite a court ruling on June 21 to halt construction on a portion of the project.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, located in Richmond, Virginia, suspended the pipeline’s stream and wetland crossing permit issued by the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The court’s decision affects crossings in approximately 160 miles of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) route in West Virginia.
“We remain confident in the MVP project approvals received by state and federal agencies and will continue to move forward with construction as scheduled and authorized for the full route across Virginia and in other areas of the route in West Virginia,” EQT said in a June 22 statement. “The court’s decision to suspend the entire Huntington District’s permit was not anticipated as the Corps had suspended the permit for the four waterbody crossings in question to evaluate the environmental benefits of the previously approved ‘dry-ditch’ method and whether the time limitation should apply. While we are disappointed with this temporary setback, the MVP team is evaluating its legal and regulatory options to reinstate the permit and continue with construction activities along this portion of the route.”
On May 22, the Sierra Club and other opponents filed a Motion to Stay the Clean Water Act Section 404 stream and wetland crossing permit issued by the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As part of this permit, the Corps incorporated the West Virginia Special Conditions, which includes a provision that stream and wetland crossings be completed within 72 hours.
The Sierra Club argues that MVP cannot comply with the permit condition to complete four waterbody crossings (Elk, Gauley, Greenbrier and Meadow Rivers) within 72 hours. However, this provision, as interpreted by both MVP and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), is intended to apply to water crossings that are constructed in an open trench while the river is flowing (“wet-cut” method).
MVP plans to use a “dry-ditch” coffer dam method to cross these four rivers as this technique is more protective of the environment because construction activity is not performed in a flowing river. This crossing technique has been approved by both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the WVDEP.
While significantly more environmentally protective, the “dry-ditch” technique also requires a longer completion time as compared to traditional “wet-cut” crossing methods to which the time limitation provision applies.
In response to the Sierra Club’s motion, the Corps suspended the permit for these four crossings and is evaluating the environmental benefits of the “dry-ditch” method and whether the time limitation should apply.
MVP continues to target a late 2018 in-service date while evaluating options for this portion of the route.
MVP is a proposed underground, interstate natural gas pipeline system that spans approximately 303 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. Subject to approval and regulatory oversight by FERC, the pipeline will be constructed and owned by Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC — a joint venture of EQT Midstream Partners, NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream LLC. The pipeline was designed to transport clean-burning natural gas from the prolific Marcellus and Utica shale regions to the growing demand markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast areas of the United States. EQT Midstream Partners, primary interest owner, will operate the pipeline.