CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline has been authorized to resume, less than a month after a federal order halted the project.
Pipeline developers stated that they expect construction to start up again soon and that MVP would bring back workers whose duties had been suspended.
The Sierra Club said the federal officials who authorized the start-up ignored common sense.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a letter on Wednesday, giving the go-ahead to resume pipeline construction.
“I authorize the resumption of construction for the project,” Terry Turpin, director of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects, wrote in the letter to Mountain Valley officials.
On August 4, the same agency ordered a stop to construction in response to an order by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Federal appeals judges ruled two key federal approvals don’t provide adequate protection on the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s route through the Jefferson National Forest, which includes Monroe County.
The Sierra Club and other environmental groups had challenged approvals by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management over a 3.6-mile segment of the pipeline’s route through the national forest.
The environmental groups questioned whether the plans for pipeline construction adequately control erosion and sediment.
In the decision announced Wednesday, FERC cited a recent analysis by the Bureau of Land Management concluding that the route through the Jefferson National Forest is the best of several alternatives.
Turpin said the “specific route of the project no longer seems in question.”
FERC said the pipeline developers already had completed significant work to install temporary erosion control devices.
The agency concluded that long-term temporary erosion control measures would subject significant portions of the route to erosion and soil movement” and “would likely pose threats to plant and wildlife habitat and adjacent waterbodies.”
Turpin said “protection of the environment along the project’s right-of-way across non-federal land is best served by completing construction and restoration activities as quickly as possible.”
MVP issued a statement applauding that position.
“We appreciate the Bureau of Land Management’s prompt review and additional, in-depth analysis of MVP alternatives with respect to federal lands and agree with their conclusion regarding the practicality of the project’s currently permitted route, stated MVP spokeswoman Natalie Cox.
Cox went on to comment, “we are pleased that we will soon be able to bring back a significant amount of workers who were temporarily suspended from their duties on the project.”
The Sierra Club issued a statement saying the federal regulators still hadn’t provided environmental certainty.
“FERC allowing construction to resume is like letting a contractor build a house after their foundation has crumbled. MVP hasn’t proven their plans will work, so they shouldn’t be allowed to move forward.”
The $3.5 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline would extend 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline over 303 miles to transport West Virginia natural gas into southern Virginia.
The pipeline would go through Wetzel, Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Braxton, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Fayette, Summers, and Monroe counties in West Virginia.