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Mountain Valley Pipeline asks for another four years to complete the project | Local News

Having already spent $5.5 billion and more than four years building a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia, the developers are now asking for another four years to finish the job.

In a letter Friday to federal regulators, Mountain Valley Pipeline requested that it be given until Oct. 13, 2026, to complete a 303-mile pipeline that has encountered fierce opposition at every turn since it was first proposed in 2014.

Court rulings striking down government-issued permits for the pipeline, prompted by lawsuits from environmentalists, made it clear that construction would not be completed by this Oct. 13, a deadline set two years ago by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“Due to the ongoing litigation,” Mountain Valley wrote in a letter to FERC, it is requesting an extension to allow it to “work cooperatively with all affected stakeholders and permit agencies to complete construction and achieve final restoration.”

“Despite a continual barrage of attacks from Project opponents, Mountain Valley remains committed to completing this critical infrastructure project,” Matthew Eggerding, assistant general counsel for the company, wrote in the letter to FERC secretary Kimberly Bose.

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Although Mountain Valley is seeking another four years, spokeswomen Natalie Cox said that the joint venture of five energy companies still hopes the pipeline will be in service by late next year.

Opponents say time has already run out on a flawed concept. Construction of the buried 42-inch diameter pipe has marred scenic landscapes and clogged pristine streams with muddy runoff, they say, and its environmental footprint will only deepen when it begins to deliver natural gas that will help fuel a climate change crisis.

“This project is a dinosaur and should go extinct in 2022,” said David Sligh, conservation director of Wild Virginia.

When plans were first announced for the pipeline — which will run from northern West Virginia through the New River and Roanoke valleys to connect with an existing pipeline near the North Carolina line — the goal was to have it completed by the winter of 2018, at a cost of $3.7 billon.

The projected cost has now grown to $6.6 billon, and the expected completion date has been pushed back more than a half-dozen times.

With key permits thrown out by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, construction is currently stalled, with the exception of erosion control and stabilization of the pipeline’s 125-foot wide right of way. Mountain Valley is in the process of seeking renewed authorizations from several government agencies.

Despite the mounting problems, Mountain Valley indicated in its letter to FERC that it still has the support of its partners and investors.

A deadline extension from FERC would “provide necessary clarity and certainty to stakeholders” and benefit “the landowners, the environment, project shippers and end-users of natural gas,” the letter stated.

“In addition, the project remains fully subscribed under binding long-term agreements.”

FERC first approved the pipeline in 2017, finding there was a public need for the 2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas that it would transport at high pressure. Mountain Valley was given a three-year certificate, which expired Oct. 13, 2020.

After lawsuits began to slow construction, the company was given another two years, which runs out in October. It asked FERC to rule on its second request to extend the deadline another four years by Aug 8. Similar delays have been approved for other natural gas projects, it said.

“Mountain Valley stands ready to complete the remaining construction as soon as practicable,” it said in the letter. The company says construction is 94% complete, although opponents dispute that figure and contend that an overly optimistic picture is being painted for regulators and investors.

“Mountain Valley Pipeline does not deserve another pass to harm the communities and water resources of Appalachia,” said Jessica Sims, Virginia field coordinator for Appalachian Voices, which has joined Wild Virginia and other groups in legal challenges.

“MVP’s request for a 4-year certificate extension runs counter to May 2022 statements from a major equity holder in the project, Equitrans, which touted project completion in 2023,” Sims said in a statement. “No matter how much time MVP asks for, it does not change the likelihood that the project can be built legally or safely, so FERC should deny this extension request.”

Mountain Valley counters that geo-political forces such as the war in Ukraine have only increased an existing demand for natural gas.

“As our nation transitions to a lower-carbon future, natural gas infrastructure will continue to play a critical role in transporting our abundant supply of domestically produced energy, supporting our current energy needs, and helping to solidify America’s energy independence,” Cox wrote in an email.

Read More: Mountain Valley Pipeline asks for another four years to complete the project | Local News

2022-06-24 18:44:00

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