The completion date of the long-delayed Mountain Valley Pipeline is again being pushed back while its cost estimate continues to increase.
The 303-mile long transmission pipeline is being built from West Virginia into Virginia to feed 2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica basins in Appalachia to the southern Atlantic states. The Mountain Valley pipeline is partly owned by Equitrans, in a joint venture with four other companies.
In its first-quarter earnings report, Equitrans said the delay was due to requests from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to extend the 120-day review period for the pipeline’s water quality certification applications.
In February, MVP asked for revocation of its Nationwide Permit 12, previously issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps), and initiated an alternative permitting process. While the nationwide permit allowed the pipeline to cross multiple water bodies, it had been challenged in court by a number of environmental groups, causing previous delays.
Rather than face a long court battle, MVP instead decided to submit about 300 individual stream crossing permit applications to the Army Corps, as well as the two states, which will require the extra time to review.
As a result of this delay, completion of the pipeline has been moved back to the summer of 2022 rather than the end of 2021. The cost is also expected to rise to $6 billion, from the previous estimate of $5.8-$6 billion.
Equitrans also announced that it now plans to begin construction of the $450 million MVP Southgate extension next year with the goal of having it in service in the spring of 2023. The approximately 75-mile pipeline is designed to take gas from MVP in Virginia to North Carolina.
Pipelines are seen as critical by Appalachian natural gas producers to allow them to send gas to other markets and expand operations. However, they have often faced opposition from conservation and other groups, and several large projects, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, have been canceled.