The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has amended a stop-work order issued to Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) earlier this month. The order was issues shortly after the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, an EQT Midstream project in Virginia, could go ahead despite a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups.
The MVP project is a 42 in. interstate natural gas transmission pipeline approximately 303 miles long that will transport gas from Wetzel County, WVa., to Pittsylvania County, Va. The ruling applies to approximately 500 waterbody crossings the pipeline will make on its path through southwest Virginia. The pipeline construction is expected to be completed early next year.
FERC’s stop-work order was issued following a federal court of appeals ruling regarding the adequacy of permits for a 3.5-mile right-of-way in the Jefferson National Forest (JNF) issued by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), relating to sedimentation controls and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), relating to the impracticality of alternative routes. Those permits applied to approximately 1% of MVP’s overall 303-mile project route and MVP had previously halted construction work in the JNF in late July.
As FERC noted in its stop work order, “There is no reason to believe that the Forest Service or the Army Corps of Engineers, as the land managing agencies, or the BLM, as the federal rights of grantor, will not be able to comply with the Court’s instructions and to ultimately issue new right-of-way grants that satisfy the Court’s requirements.”
In a letter to FERC, MVP asked FERC to reconsider and allow it to restart construction for at least part of the pipeline. FERC agreed and partially lifted the stop-work order. The new order allows MVP to work on the project for 77 of its 303 miles — about 25%.
MVP said because so much of the project remains idled, it would be laying off 50% of the workers from the project. “Despite the construction activities authorized under the modified work order and the FERC-approved stabilization plan, MVP was forced to take immediate measures to address an idled workforce and protect the integrity of the project,” the company said in a statement. “MVP is working to mitigate any additional job loss; and we believe we are making progress to receive authorization to resume full construction activities and return the currently released workers back to their jobs.”