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Mountain Valley Pipeline Receives Approval to Operate

After years of delays and escalating costs, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given approval to Equitrans Midstream to start operation of the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline.

The 303-mile pipeline, which will carry natural gas from the Marcellus Shale through West Virginia and Virginia to southeast markets, has been under construction since 2018, but has been the subject of numerous legal and regulatory challenges from environmental groups. The delays raised the cost of the pipeline from the original estimate of $3.7 billion to the final $7.85 billion total.

“We are pleased with the agencies’ decisions and the related communications regarding in-service authorization for the MVP project,” Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for Equitrans Midstream Corp., told the Associated Press. “Final preparations are underway to begin commercial operations.”

Construction of the pipeline was delayed by a series of legal challenges that began almost as soon as the project was announced. The final section was finally finished after language was included in 2023 federal legislation to raise the debt ceiling that fast-tracked its completion.

The legislation included a provision compelling the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue all permits needed and prohibiting the court from reviewing it. FERC then approved all remaining construction,

While pressure testing the pipeline in preparation for operation, a section burst in May. The in-service date was again pushed back while repairs were completed and more testing occurred. On June 10, Equitrans sent a letter to FERC declaring the project complete and asking that it be allowed to place it in service quickly in order to meet commitments with shippers to transport gas.

Environmental groups expressed disappointment with the approval. “Community members and environmental watchdogs have pointed out the flaws in this project for years, and these fundamental problems with the pipeline remain,” Jessica Sims of Appalachian Voices said in a statement. “By allowing MVP to advance despite all these serious hazards, the system meant to protect our communities, land and water has failed.”

While the federal approval puts an end to the lengthy and expensive battle over this project, natural gas companies have become more cautious about undertaking new pipeline projects. There has been much discussion about streamlining the federal permitting process to make it more efficient, but no legislation has yet been approved.

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