The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied requests for rehearing of the order that approved the EQT Midstream Partners LP-led, 2-Bcf/d Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline project.
In a June 15 ruling, a majority of the commission upheld its certificate order that affirmed a public need for the project over potential impacts. The majority, composed of Chairman Kevin McIntyre, Commissioner Neil Chatterjee and Commissioner Robert Powelson, said the FERC order had followed the requirements of the Natural Gas Act, including in assessing the potential climate and environmental impacts and the market need for the project. The majority said the order properly conveyed eminent domain authority. It said some of the requests for rehearing contained flaws, such as attempts to introduce new evidence. It dismissed claims that the commission had failed to follow due process by using information outside public documents.
The Sierra Club, New River Conservancy, Blue Ridge Land Conservancy, Nature Conservancy, Preserve Montgomery County VA, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Preserve Craig (Va.), Preserve Giles County (Va.), four counties in Virginia, a historic district committee and 14 individuals had asked for a rehearing of the 2017 certificate order.
The decision generated objections from two commissioners, Democrats Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick. LaFleur and Glick also dissented when FERC authorized the $3.7 billion project in October 2017, on the same day the commission approved the Dominion Energy Inc.-led Atlantic Coast pipeline, which shared an area in the Appalachian region and had similar timing with the Mountain Valley project.
In their dissents, LaFleur and Glick disagreed with the majority's conclusion on cumulative and climate impacts, saying the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley projects could together result in significant environmental damage. "I believe we should have given more consideration to a merged system/one-pipe alternative option that could result in less environmental disturbance and fewer landowner impacts," LaFleur said.
Glick said FERC did not go far enough in evaluating impacts from greenhouse gas emissions associated with the Mountain Valley project, an argument he has voiced in statements on other pipeline projects. "The commission has the tools needed to evaluate the projects' impacts on climate change. It simply refuses to use them," Glick said.
Glick and LaFleur also objected to the majority's decision to assess the public need for the Mountain Valley pipeline based on precedent agreements with the developers' corporate affiliates.
"I am concerned that ... precedent agreements among those entities will not necessarily be negotiated through an arms-length process and considerations other than market demand will bear on the negotiations underlying the agreement," Glick said.
LaFleur also said she was concerned that some stakeholders might have difficulty accessing information about Mountain Valley and other pipeline projects. "I am concerned about the majority's response to stakeholders who have tried to access documents relevant to this proceeding, including precedent agreements," she wrote.
FERC approved construction activities on Jan. 22 for the roughly 300-mile pipeline, which will run from West Virginia to connections with other pipelines in Virginia. The project is a joint venture of EQT Corp.'s EQT Midstream, NextEra Energy Inc., Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream Inc. and RGC Midstream LLC. (FERC docket CP16-10)