WASHINGTON (WV News) — The Mountain Valley Pipeline is expected to be complete by the end of the year thanks to provisions included in the debt ceiling dealing negotiated in Congress, according to its developers.
The natural gas pipeline project, first announced nearly a decade ago, could be in operation by this winter, said Natalie Cox, director of communications and corporate affairs for Equitrans Midstream Corp.
“We look forward to completing this important infrastructure project by the end of 2023 and flowing domestic natural gas this winter for the benefits of reliability and affordability in the form of lower natural gas prices for consumers,” she said.
Assurances for completing project are a central component of the package negotiated by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the White House over the nation’s borrowing limit.
“We are grateful for the full support of the White House, as well as the strong leadership of Democratic and Republican legislators for recognizing the Mountain Valley Pipeline as a critical energy infrastructure project,” Cox said.
Language in the legislation would cause current legal challenges against the MVP project to be dismissed, said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
“The way it has been written, it prohibits judicial review of permits needed to construct the MVP,” he said. “This prohibition extends to cases that are ongoing in the Fourth Circuit of Appeals, which should be dismissed if this bill passes.”
While most litigation against the project would be prohibited, the legislation would require cases related to the MVP to be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Manchin said.
“The bottom line is — it’s gone through, I don’t how many times — it’s been through the court system eight or nine times,” he said.
The developers thanked Manchin, who has repeatedly backed efforts to aid the completion of the MVP.
“In particular, it was the leadership and unwavering commitment of Chairman Manchin, who first recognized the importance of MVP to our nation’s energy security and spearheaded the development of broad, bipartisan support for the completion of MVP,” Cox said. “We are also appreciative of Speaker McCarthy and Sen. Capito for their steadfast support and efforts to complete this crucial project, and for the strong support of House Reps. Reschenthaler, Miller and Joyce.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., applauded the project’s inclusion in the package.
“Despite delay after delay, we continued to fight to get this critical natural gas pipeline up and running, and its inclusion in this deal is a significant victory for the future of West Virginia,” Capito said.
Finishing the pipeline will “create more jobs, lower energy costs and protect our environment,” Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., said.
“This bill is a bipartisan win for every American,” she said.
According to the text of the proposed debt ceiling package, the secretary of the U.S. Army would be required to issue “all permits or verifications necessary” to complete the MVP’s remaining construction and operation and maintenance “not later than 21 days” after the legislation is enacted.
Both Manchin and Capito have been involved in multiple attempts over the last year to pass federal legislation overhauling and streamlining the process of issuing permits for energy projects.
Capito, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced the Revitalizing the Economy by Simplifying Timelines and Assuring Regulatory Transparency (RESTART) Act at the beginning of May.
“We see so many projects held up, abandoned or not being able to get completed because they can’t get the permits,” she said.
Regulatory impediments are slowing down more than just the natural gas projects, Capito said.
“It’s manufacturing projects. It’s water projects. It’s broadband projects,” she said. “All of these projects have to be permitted before they’re allowed to be built.”
The Mountain Valley Pipeline project was initially announced in 2014 at a cost of $3.5 billion with an expected completion date at the end of 2018. Its total cost is now expected to be in excess of $6.5 billion.
A separate pipeline in West Virginia, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, was canceled in July 2020 after legal challenges inflated its cost to more than $8 billion.
Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, the developers of the 600-mile project designed to cross West Virginia and Virginia into North Carolina, said “recent developments have created an unacceptable layer of uncertainty and anticipated delays” and led them to scrap the project.