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Mountain Valley Pipeline asks FERC to ease construction hold

Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to relax a stop work order affecting the entire 2-Bcf/d natural gas pipeline project in an effort to avoid delays and costs.

"There is no need for the work stoppage to apply to the entire project," Mountain Valley said.

FERC ordered Mountain Valley on Aug. 3 to stop building along the up to $3.7 billion pipeline's entire 300-mile route after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit vacated permissions for the project from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for crossing 3.7 miles of the Jefferson National Forest in parts of Virginia and West Virginia.

In an Aug. 14 letter, the EQT Corp.-led Mountain Valley proffered suggestions for modifications to the order. The company proposed authorization for construction on a West Virginia segment that would eventually allow it to deliver up to 1 Bcf/d. The company asked FERC to only maintain the halt of construction in areas that might be affected by revised permits from the Forest Service and the BLM.

Mountain Valley asked for permission to continue working on a portion of the project from its start at milepost 0 in Wetzel County, W.Va., to the WB interconnection with Columbia Gas Transmission LLC around milepost 77 in Braxton County, W.Va., with the exception of a seven-mile "exclusion zone" centered on milepost 67 near the Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike Bridge Trail in West Virginia. The court did not include the trail in its July 27 decision, but Mountain Valley said the BLM might co-locate part of the project route with an existing right of way across the trail, which would require a small route change. The national forest lands are about 129 miles downstream along the pipeline route from the trail crossing.

If Mountain Valley can finish construction of the West Virginia segment up to the interconnection with the Columbia Gas system, the pipeline could deliver up to 1 Bcf/d of gas to the interconnect and provide interim transportation service while building the rest of the project, the company said.

The developer also asked for permission to resume building project compressor stations and interconnects.

Mountain Valley said a full stop would result in "detrimental effects on the environment, landowners, project workers and the public." The environmental effects could include sedimentation in nearby streams as the route and erosion controls are temporarily abandoned. An extended halt would also mean substantial additional costs, including overhead for employees and contractors, demobilization costs and the release of thousands of other project employees.

The project, a joint venture of EQT's EQT Midstream Partners LP, NextEra Energy Inc., WGL Midstream Inc., Con Edison Gas Pipeline and Storage LLC and RGC Midstream LLC, received FERC certificate authorization in October 2017. The project will offer Appalachian gas producers incremental takeaway capacity with access to Mid-Atlantic markets. EQT had pushed the in-service date from the end of 2018 to the first quarter of 2019 prior to FERC's stop work order. (FERC docket CP16-10)