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Mountain Valley Pipeline Completion Delayed, Cost Rises

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 owned by a conglomeration of energy companies, including Equitrans, which this year acquired the remainder of former part-owner EQM Midstream Partners.

In its third-quarter report, Equitrans said that due to delays from numerous permitting challenges that prevented it from completing certain work during the prime construction season, it has pushed back the completion date for the MVP to the second half of 2021. It previously had targeted early 2021 to put the line into service. The cost has also risen to between $5.8 and $6 billion as the delays continue to add up. When construction began in 2018, the cost was estimated at $3.7 billion.

Equitrans said it will own about 47.6 percent of the pipeline and fund $2.9 billion of the cost.

The delays have resulted from challenges by environmental groups to several permits. While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently lifted a year-long stop work order allowing it to move ahead with the majority of construction, the battle over a general water crossing permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues.

In September, the Corps reapproved the permit, but it was challenged by seven environmental groups, and a federal appeals court this week issued a stay until it takes up the entire appeal, which may not be for several months. An environmental coalition is also asking FERC to review its authorization to allow some construction to resume.

The MVP is one of several large pipeline projects that has faced significant opposition from environmental groups. With the recent announcement that the owners of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which also faced opposition, were canceling the project, the MVP would be the largest new transmission line to carry Appalachian gas to southern states. Gas producers in the Appalachian region have said that it is important that the pipeline infrastructure be built out, so that their product can get to markets in other parts of the country.

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