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Court gives West Virginia a do-over on permit for Mountain Valley pipeline

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Court gives West Virginia a do-over on permit for Mountain Valley pipeline

A federal appeals court allowed the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to start over on its review of an application for a water quality certificate submitted by the EQT Midstream Partners LP-led Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC natural gas transportation project.

In an Oct. 17 order, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit granted the state agency's motion for voluntary remand and vacated the $3.7 billion project's Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification. (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit docket 17-1714)

The Mountain Valley developers said the decision to vacate the permit was simply part of a move by the state agency to rid itself of a challenge by environmental groups to the original certificate. The developers said the order would not affect the project schedule.

"The court did not rule on the merits or validity of the WVDEP's 401 certification," EQT Corp. spokeswoman Natalie Cox said in an Oct. 17 statement on behalf of the project. "Today's decision by the court was purely an administrative act based on the motion to dismiss as filed by the WVDEP on September 13, 2017. The WVDEP is currently reevaluating Mountain Valley Pipeline's 401 certification, and the MVP project team does not expect this work to alter its current plans or schedule."

The state agency filed the motion to invalidate the original water quality certificate after a coalition of environmental groups contested the certificate. The coalition included the Sierra Club, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. The groups said they were pleased the state agency decided to take back the certificate.

"It's assuring that DEP is taking its obligations under the Clean Water Act seriously, especially on a project that is likely the largest the agency has ever reviewed under Section 401," West Virginia Rivers Coalition Executive Director Angie Rosser said in a statement. "The agency could have simply thrown up its hands and waived its authority, but it didn't. It is up to this task."

The 2-Bcf/d Mountain Valley pipeline project is a joint venture of EQT Midstream and affliates of NextEra Energy Inc., RGC Resources Inc., WGL Holdings Inc. and Consolidated Edison Inc. The pipeline would run about 300 miles from West Virginia to connections in Virginia with Williams Partners LP's Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC and TransCanada Corp.'s Columbia Gas Transmission LLC pipelines.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a Natural Gas Act certificate authorizing the project Oct. 13. FERC gave the developers three years to put the project in service. (FERC docket CP16-10)

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