Jul. 28—West Virginia federal legislators are putting pressure on a federal agency to approve a four-year extension of the deadline to complete the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Rep. David B. McKinley, R-1st District, along with Senators Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who is Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Carol Miller, R-3rd District, signed a letter last week to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) urging them to support the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and approve its pending request for a four-year extension.
The 303-mile, 42-inch diameter pipeline, which when finished would bring natural gas from North Central West Virginia to Chatham, Va., was initially scheduled to be operational by the end of 2018 at a cost of about $3.5 billion. That did not happen and permits were extended to Oct. 13, 2022.
More than 90 percent of the pipe has been placed. However, because of protests and lawsuits the project has been delayed by court battles and the company is now asking for an extension of the permits to 2026 and the cost estimate to finish is now at more than $6 billion.
The latest court setback for the MVP was a decision made U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va. to invalidate approvals previously granted by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to construct the pipeline on federal land.
That includes Jefferson National Forest, which the MVP must pass through in Monroe and Giles Counties, with a total of about 3.5 miles on federal land involved. The pipeline also must run under the Appalachian Trail where it crosses the ridge line of Peters Mountain in Monroe County.
Permits to cross streams had also been tied up in court.
"At a time when energy prices are soaring, it is imperative that FERC works to accelerate the development of domestic energy infrastructure so that Americans may have access to a reliable and affordable supply of natural gas," the letter to FERC said. "The United States is a world-leader in natural gas production, and as the conflict in Ukraine continues, the United States should use every tool at its disposal to make up for the shortfall in the global natural gas supply for our allies and trading partners. Natural gas produced in the Appalachian Basin is undoubtedly part of that solution."
The letter said that although the MVP would not deliver natural gas for exports, "completion of the pipeline will certainly help to meet increasing domestic demand for natural gas and unlock other supplies of natural gas to send to our allies."
"MVP is nearly 94 percent constructed but is still subject to ongoing litigation and permit challenges, to the detriment of American consumers, our national security, communities along the pipeline route, and the environment," the letter said. "This project must be completed. Your approval of this extension request will also provide certainty to communities and landowners along the pipeline's path that FERC intends for the MVP to be completed. West Virginians have told us that they want to see the project completed, their properties restored, and the benefits of the project accrue for their communities."
Capito and Manchin have been working to get the project moving forward, especially after Russian invaded Ukraine and sanctions were placed on Russian gas and oil.
"We are looking at energy security and energy independence, our own resources, especially when you frame it up with what is going on in the Ukraine," Capito said during an April interview. "We have many, many pipelines existing in this country so this is not a new concept."
She and Manchin both said they want to see the case heard in Richmond to be moved to the D.C. court.
"The company has asked if they can get it (this court case) in the D.C. court," Capito said. "Most businesses don't want to do that, but that tells you they will have a more objective hearing in the D.C. court. At the same time, we've got to make sure (federal agencies) move quicker and faster and fairer to make sure the proper environmental permits are permitted so they can finish this project."
Capito said "it just makes common sense, in my view" because the pipeline is almost 95 percent complete and is needed.
"We cannot get a pipeline out of the Marcellus Shale (in north central West Virginia)," Manchin said earlier this year.
"The Mountain Valley Pipeline is 95 percent complete. That means the pipeline is in the ground, covered and reclamation done (on the land above it). But they have been blocked. That pipeline must be connected to the market."
Manchin also called for the 4th Circuit case in Richmond to be moved to the D.C. court.
"We need to ramp up (the supply of natural gas)," he said, and the Marcellus Shale is the "richest formation in the world."
Opponents of the MVP have pointed out the impact on the environment, especially in areas like Monroe County which includes karst (underground limestone which has been eroded by dissolution, producing ridges, towers, fissures, sinkholes and other characteristic landforms), and also the dangers of a large-capacity pipeline that could leak or explode with the underground instability.
They also have questioned the eminent domain component, with many landowners not wanting the pipeline on their land but had no choice.
— Contact Charles Boothe at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com
(c)2022 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, W.Va.)
Visit the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, W.Va.) at bdtonline.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.