Resumption of work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) may be on the horizon as permitting hurdles are, so far, being crossed.

The 303-mile, 42-inch diameter pipeline that will carry natural gas from north central West Virginia to Chatham, Va. and beyond, is more than 90 percent complete and is also now being backed by the Biden administration.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said during a virtual press briefing Thursday she is optimistic that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va. will give final clearance of two key federal permitting approvals the court has rejected in the past.

One is the U.S. Forest Service permit to cross about 3.5 miles of Jefferson National Forest in Monroe County across Peters Mountain into Giles County, Va.

The Forest Service recently approved a new environmental impact study to replace the one that was previously rejected by the court and on Wednesday the Biden administration approved the permit.

The other is related to the MVP waterway crossings in West Virginia. An approval by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was turned down by the court previously but a new one will soon be submitted.

“I don’t see why we can’t move forward,” Capito said. “We have Fish and Wildlife, we have the Forest Service, we have the state of Virginia and all of their permitting documents have been accepted, we are waiting for West Virginia to get accepted. It was accepted once and the court turned it back.”

Capito said the DEP has reformulated their opinions, the ones that were rejected by the Fourth Circuit before.

“My understanding is that if it’s close to what Virginia has and the court accepted it, I don’t know why the court wouldn’t accept a West Virginia one,” she said.

If the Fourth Circuit does accept those permits once they come before it, the way may be cleared for work on the MVP to resume.

The MVP was slated to be finished by late 2018 with a price tag of $3.2 billion, but protests and litigation have delayed it and ballooned the cost to about $6.5 billion.

Such long delays provide an example of why federal permitting reform is needed, she said, which includes speeding up judicial review of permits.

“If we passed my permitting bill we wouldn’t be having these conversations,” she of the delays. “We would have permitted the MVP and it would probably be close to completion right now.”

Capito has longed maintained the MVP is crucial, especially considering the war in Ukraine.

“Getting natural gas to our allies is something we see as so important as we frame it around Ukraine and what is happening in Europe,” she said. “The European continent was relying on Russian natural gas, Russia, an aggressor that has invaded and is invading a free country. That kind of behavior can’t be rewarded. But you get hamstrung because you basically made your commitments to Russia.”

Capito said that tells her this country could and should be energy independent.

“West Virginia and Appalachia have abundant resources with natural gas and coal and we should be using these as our baseline fuel,” she said. “The Mountain Valley Pipeline would not just be able to move that natural gas to liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals that could then go to Europe, it also goes to a whole lot of the southern part of this country to power that, where we are looking at some shortages.”

Completing the MVP “just makes sense to me,” she said, and court battles should not impede the process.

“I think as you see the roadblocks that were put up with a continuous ability to sue and sue, my permitting bill would not allow that,” she said. “It curtails judicial review. This is why we have to get permitting reform because the judicial review portion of this is exceedingly important to get projects, not just off and running, but completed.”

In the Fourth Circuit cases, it is about politics, she added.

“I am really frustrated by what I see because I think it is really a politicalization of the court. I think the court is skewing to a political agenda by obstructing this pipeline.”

The red tape itself must also be untangled.

“The (permitting) processes have become a bureaucratic, confusing maze,” Capito said during a hearing Wednesday. “The red tape, regulatory hurdles, and endless court battles faced by businesses slow and sometimes altogether stop critical projects.”

Capito, as well as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., all have introduced similar bills to reform the federal permitting process so these and other infrastructure projects don’t take seven to 10 years to get started.

They are working together through their respective committees to come up with a reform bill they can all agree on.

Permitting reform is also part of the House bill on debt limits that is now being negotiated as part of increasing the nation’s debt ceiling to avoid default.

“We are going to try to work this through committee,” she said of the bills. “But we all know the House passed a bill that had permitting reform in it and we are taking some of those elements. If this becomes the bargaining point, we can get there a lot quicker with permitting. But we want to keep working it through our committees as they are deciding how to get to a debt ceiling deal.”

Capito said it could possibly remain as part of the debt limit deal, “but we are kind of going on a two-track system here.”