Mountain Valley Clears Permit Hurdle for 303-Mile Pipeline Project in Virginia

(Reuters) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday backed construction authorizations for the $6.2 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline project in Virginia, after finding state regulators thoroughly reviewed the project's environmental impacts.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality conducted an extensive and legally adequate review before issuing a permit that allows the 303-mile proposed pipeline to cross through the state’s streams and wetlands.

Environmental groups including the Sierra Club asked the court in 2021 to toss the Clean Water Act permit, claiming the state essentially rubber stamped the project without considering numerous environmental concerns.

But the 4th Circuit’s three-judge panel rejected those claims, finding the state considered alternative pathways and took into account thousands of public comments on the pipeline’s impacts before approving the permit.

RELATED: Mountain Valley Pipeline Gets a Key Approval to Restart Construction

Despite “assertions to the contrary, there is evidence in the record which indicates the agencies did not simply ‘rubber stamp’ MVP’s proposed crossing methods,” wrote Chief Judge Roger Gregory.

Natalie Cox, a spokesperson for MVP developer Equitrans Midstream Corp, said in a statement that the decision backed the company's plan to construct the pipeline “with the least possible impact on the environment.” The company is continuing to make progress toward obtaining the remaining approvals needed to complete the pipeline, Cox said.

Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels director Patrick Grenter said in a statement on Wednesday the company has violated “commonsense water protections hundreds of times” and pledged to continue to fight the pipeline.

The Virginia permit is one of the last remaining hurdles for the multi-billion dollar project, which would carry natural gas between West Virginia and Virginia. Equitrans has said it is 94% complete.

The pipeline has been the subject of numerous lawsuits, including an earlier challenge to a general water construction permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which the 4th Circuit vacated in 2018.

After the court vacated the general permit, Equitrans requested individual Clean Water Act permits from Virginia and West Virginia agencies. A challenge to the West Virginia permitting is currently pending before the 4th Circuit.

The case is Sierra Club et al. v. State Water Control Board, 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, case No. 21-2425.

For the environmental groups: Elizabeth Bower, Benjamin Luckett and Derek Teaney of the Appalachian Mountain Advocates.

For Virginia: state Solicitor General Andrew Ferguson, Assistant Attorney General Michael Jagels, Erika Maley, Attorney General Jason Miyares, Annie Chiang and Charles Slemp of the state attorney's general office.

For Equitrans: Deidre Duncan, Jeffrey Lamberson and George Sibley of Hunton Andrews Kurth and Justin Curtis of AquaLaw.

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