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MVP seeks new amendment at FERC, faces divestment campaign from green groups

Highlights

Proposes trenchless water crossings at 120 locations

Environmentalists to target bank financing

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Mountain Valley Pipeline has pitched a new, amended application at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, even as environmental groups launched new efforts to encourage divestment from the US natural gas project.

The 303-mile, 2 Bcf/d natural gas project, connecting Appalachian Shale gas to Mid-Atlantic markets, is seeking to get back on track following court and regulatory setbacks. To overcome long-running legal hurdles to its water crossing authorizations, MVP in late January announced it would revamp its permitting approach.

Following through on that, it filed an abbreviated application at FERC Feb. 19 seeking to use trenchless water crossings methods at 120 locations to cross 181 waterbodies and wetlands that FERC originally authorized for open cut methods (CP21-57). MVP also proposed "minor adjustments" to avoid aquatic features and said no new landowners would be affected by the changes it has proposed.

MVP also submitted new applications for an individual permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers for those areas where it hopes to use open cut crossings.

"The commission's approval of this application and the Corps' approval of the individual permit would allow Mountain Valley to complete all remaining crossings project-wide," it said in the application.

SEEKS JUNE 17 SIGNOFF

It asked FERC to approve the application by June 17, citing the prior record of delays experienced by the project, including those driven by litigation.

As MVP took took that step, environmentalists, on the other hand, were getting ready to target financing for the project.

Sierra Club Feb. 22, announced that a group of environmental and financial organizations had launched the "DivestMVP coalition."

In a press release, the coalition said it represented over 7.6 million members and supporters and would highlight "the financial instability of the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline and why it is such a risky bet for investors." It pointed to delays and cost overruns as well as penalties MVP had faced for environmental violations.

Collin Rees, a spokesman for Oil Change International, said the campaign is aimed at top financiers of the MVP and EQM Midstream Partners, with a particular focus on Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo.

"These are the top US names with branches spread around the country, and they're also among the very top funders of fossil fuel projects worldwide," he said.

The coalition plans a virtual rally Feb. 25. While it is still developing its campaign, future tactics may include petitions, call-in days, digital protests, "in-person days of action," meetings with investors, media and shareholder pressure, according to Rees. Sierra Club, in an email, listed over 40 groups making up the coalition.

CONTINUED LEGAL BATTLES

MVP spokeswoman Natalie Cox cast that effort as a continuation of attempts to block the project.

"This is less a new coalition than a repackage and repurpose of the same coalition that continues to pursue unproductive litigation with questionable results," she said. "These groups do not represent the majority, in fact, they represent a very vocal few, and their litigation tactics are being used to place their policy beliefs over that of environmental protection."

She asserted that the new applications reflect MVP's efforts to minimize its environmental footprint and implement best practices.

MVP, separately, scored one legal victory Feb. 19; the DC Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request for stay from the Sierra Club in regard to recent FERC orders allowing construction in some certain areas.

ClearView Energy Partners in a research note Feb. 19 said that denial did not change the project's status quo, or allow work in areas currently lacking authorization, such as waterbody crossings and areas traversing the Jefferson National Forest.

"The resolution of these outstanding waterbody crossing permits is the primary obstacle to MVP hitting its planned in-service target of late 2021," ClearView said.

Cox said MVP believes that pursuing the individual permit and the new FERC amendment is the most efficient regulatory path to completing the project.