The Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) thoroughly reviewed the environmental impacts of Equitrans Midstream Corp.’s 303-mile, 42-in. OD Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline (MVP) before issuing its Clean Water Act (CWA) permit to cross streams and wetlands. The 2-bcfd pipeline is 94% complete, according to Equitrans.
DEQ provided the court with a final fact sheet explaining that it had reviewed each crossing in MVP’s application and that MVP had met its burden of providing alternatives and explaining why its chosen route was the “least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.” The primary objection presented by petitioners regarding MVP’s Virginia Water Protection permit was that the project had “failed to evaluate whether alternative crossing locations would be environmentally preferable and practicable.”
Chief Judge Roger Gregory noted that “assertions to the contrary, there is evidence in the record which indicates the agencies did not simply ‘rubber stamp’ MVP’s proposed crossing methods,” as had been asserted. “Rather, the agencies asked a number of clarifying questions to ensure they were satisfied that the project minimizes the impact on the environment.”
MVP earlier this month received US Fish and Wildlife Service approval of the project (OGJ Online, Mar. 7, 2023). Equitrans is targeting a second-quarter 2023 resumption of construction and to have the project finished by the end of the year. There is, however, a challenge to West Virginia’s CWA permitting still pending before the Fourth Circuit.
The pipeline would carry Appalachian natural gas to mid-Atlantic markets.