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“Significant delays” projected as DEP takes steps toward additional review of pipeline project

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The developers of the proposed 303-mile long Mountain Valley Pipeline still cite late 2018 as the target in-service date for the natural gas pipeline despite planned additional review from West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

“The MVP project team shares the West Virginia DEP’s interest in protecting the environment along this important project’s proposed route,” a statement read.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Department and other stakeholders to ensure the state’s Section 401 Water Quality Certification complies with federal requirements.”

Last week, the DEP formally filed a motion in federal court to invalidate its earlier approval on the water quality component of the large project that, as proposed, would cross 631 streams total.

It was not immediately clear when there would be a ruling on that motion.

Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, predicted any additional DEP review would take several months causing “significant delays” in planned construction which hinges on state certifications that the interstate gas pipeline will not have significant effects on water quality.

The target date for the start of construction had been before the close of 2017.

“They’re going to have to look really closely at these streams affected and be able to have the information available and the assurances that, in fact, water quality will not be impacted,” Rosser said.

“I think it will be very interesting to see what they find.”

Several environmental groups, including Rosser’s, challenged the 401 certification in court.

“The main concern is around erosion and sedimentation, that there aren’t the controls in place to keep runoff from polluting the stream and that can have pretty dramatic effects, negative effects on the water quality and also the aquatic life within these streams,” she said.

“It’s going to take awhile,” Rosser said of the additional DEP review. “We’ll be watching the process and be very interested in what they have to come back with.”

The 401 certification covers activities that may discharge fill into waters. Developers are proposing mitigation for the streams and wetlands in the pipeline’s path.

In June, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, called FERC, gave environmental approval, but not overall final approval to the $3.5 billion MVP project following three years of project planning and development.

FERC’s regulators determined the developers were taking appropriate precautions to control erosion and sediment.

As proposed, the pipeline would span more than 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia with about 195 of those miles of pipeline along with compressor stations, meter stations and access roads in 11 West Virginia counties.

Those counties are Wetzel, Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Braxton, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Fayette, Summers and Monroe. Compressor stations are identified for Wetzel, Braxton and Fayette.

The companies involved in the Mountain Valley Pipeline, one of several currently under DEP review, include EQT Midstream Partners, NextEra US Gas Assets, Con Edison Transmission, WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream.

Other proposed pipeline projects to move natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shales include Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, running from central West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina along with TransCanada’s Mountaineer XPress Pipeline from Marshall County to Wayne County.

“These are several hundred mile long pipelines and very big — 42 in. — something that we’ve never seen constructed in some of our mountainous terrain before,” Rosser told MetroNews.

“The steep slopes that they’re dealing with and the number of streams being impacted, this is just something unprecedented that the state has never had to deal with before.”

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