Construction kicks up on big WV pipeline projects

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two major natural gas pipelines originating in West Virginia are moving forward with construction activities after focusing on cutting trees through the winter months.

Mountain Valley Pipeline will extend 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline over 303 miles to transport West Virginia natural gas into southern Virginia. The pipeline developer says the $3.5 billion project is on pace for completion this year after felling trees in areas considered to be sensitive habitats for bats and migratory birds.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run 600 miles from West Virginia through Virginia and into southeastern North Carolina, delivering up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of Marcellus shale gas. That $5.1 billion project is on track for completion in 2019, developers say.

Each project is meant to move West Virginia natural gas to eastern markets, potentially generating higher prices. But there is also focus on how the enormous projects may affect the landscape and waterways as construction commences.

Mountain Valley Pipeline says it remains on target for completion late this year.

“Mountain Valley Pipeline is pleased to report 100 percent completion of all tree-felling activities requiring time-of-year restrictions related to endangered bats,” stated Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for MVP.

“The project team continues to conduct tree-felling and related activity in accordance with state and federal laws, and the project remains on target for a late 2018 in-service.”

Mountain Valley Pipeline was the focus of protesters in treetop platforms this winter in Monroe County, where trees were being cleared for a path through the Jefferson National Forest. The protesters were aiming to make MVP miss a March 31 deadline to clear trees in the area.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the protests, which did prevent tree felling in that immediate area past March 31, squared with Mountain Valley’s progress.

In West Virginia, the Mountain Valley Pipeline would pass through Greenbrier, Monroe, Nicholas, Summers, Braxton, Harrison, Lewis, Webster and Wetzel counties.

Mountain Valley Pipeline’s developers say the project will produce 9,000 jobs in Virginia and West Virginia. The project anticipates direct spending of $407 million in Virginia, and $811 million in West Virginia.

During construction, the project is anticipated to generate $34 million in state and local taxes in Virginia and $47 million in West Virginia.

The most recent weekly report provided from Mountain Valley Pipeline to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission noted that tree felling continues in several areas along the path.

The progress report also says construction continues at the compressor stations that are necessary to keep natural gas flowing through the pipeline. Road construction is also continuing, and construction is starting on authorized lay down yards.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline would start in Harrison County and proceed across Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Pocahontas counties in West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina.

Over the course of construction, Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s developers say the project will generate more than 17,000 new jobs and $2.7 billion in economic activity across the region, with more than 13,000 professionals working directly on pipeline construction.

The pipeline will be built in individual sections, or spreads, with multiple spreads under construction at the same time.

That project is still aiming for a 2019 completion.

“We’re still on track to start construction later this spring and complete the project by the end of next year,” stated Aaron Ruby, a spokesman for Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline asked for an extension for tree felling late last month and was denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“We’ve completed tree felling along more than 200 miles of the route,” Ruby stated. “While that’s less than we planned for this year, we’ll still have a productive construction season.

“Once we receive a few remaining approvals, we’ll start full construction later this spring and summer. Any work we can’t complete this year we’ll shift to next year, which will keep us on track to finish up by the end of 2019.”

West Virginia’s Division of Environmental Protection has established a web page giving state residents an overview of several ongoing pipeline projects, along with access to public documents associated with the projects.

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