Mountain Valley Pipeline construction ban partially lifted

'Construction will best mitigate further environmental impacts'

By Jeff Williamson - Digital Content Manager

ROANOKE, Va. - The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission partially lifted its ban on Mountain Valley Pipeline construction Wednesday.

In a two-page letter to MVP, Terry Turpin, FERC's director of the office of energy projects, lifted the ban in all but two stretches of federal land.

"In consultation with staff, I have determined that protection of the environment along the Project’s right-of-way across non-federal land is best served by completing construction and restoration activities as quickly as possible," Turpin wrote.

The two spots where pipeline construction is not authorized to continue are:

  • The crossing of the Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike on lands owned by
    the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in Braxton County, West Virginia
  • Between mileposts 196 and 221, an area encompassing the two watersheds containing the 3.5 miles of pipeline route across the Jefferson National Forest, in Monroe County, West Virginia, and Giles County, Virginia.

Also in the letter, Turpin wrote, "In order to ensure that Mountain Valley Pipeline achieve that objective, it must take all steps necessary to promptly conduct post-construction restoration as soon as construction is complete."

Mountain Valley Pipeline provided 10 News with this comment regarding Wednesday's news:

"We appreciate the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) prompt review and additional, in-depth analysis of MVP alternatives with respect to federal lands and agree with their conclusion regarding the practicality of the project's currently permitted route. This conclusion resolves the basis of the Stop Work Order issued on August 3, 2018, and also confirms that MVP's existing route minimizes impacts to sensitive species and environmental, cultural, and historic resources in the Forest. With the FERC granting approval for MVP to recommence its construction activities, with exception of areas in proximity to the Weston Gauley Bridge Turnpike Trail and Jefferson National Forest, we are pleased that we will soon be able to bring back a significant amount of workers who were temporarily suspended from their duties on the project. Moving forward, we will continue to coordinate with the agencies to address the Court's remaining issues and look forward to continuing with the safe, responsible construction of the pipeline along the full 303-mile route."

The Sierra Club released this statement in reaction to the ban being partially lifted:

"FERC allowing construction to resume is like letting a contractor build a house after their foundation has crumbled. MVP hasn’t proven their plans will work, so they shouldn’t be allowed to move forward.”

Read the full letter below:

Re: Partial Authorization to Resume Construction

Dear Mr. Eggerding:

Staff, having further reviewed the status of construction activities along the route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project (Project), and additional information provided by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has determined that the protection of the environment along the Project’s right-of-way is best served by modifying the Stop Work Order issued on August 3, 2018.

In the Stop Work Order, staff stated that “[s]hould the agencies authorize alternative routes, [Mountain Valley Pipeline] may need to revise substantial portions of the Project route across non-federal lands, possibly requiring further authorizations and environmental review.” On August 24, 2018, the BLM provided the Commission a supplemental analysis of other pipeline route alternatives that offer collocation opportunities across federal lands (see enclosure). Based on the BLM’s determination
that the route previously approved by all federal agencies provides the greatest level of collocation for an alternative crossing that is also practical, the specific route of the Project no longer seems in question.

Approximately sixty-five percent of the right-of-way between Mileposts 77 and 303 has been cleared of vegetation, with a significant portion of that length having been graded. In those cleared and graded segments, Mountain Valley Pipeline has installed temporary erosion control devices. Maintaining the status quo across non-federal lands while the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the BLM address the Court’s instructions regarding federal lands would likely pose threats to plant and wildlife habitat and adjacent waterbodies as long-term employment of
temporary erosion control measures would subject significant portions of the route to erosion and soil movement. Requiring immediate restoration of the entire right-of-way to pre-construction conditions would require significant additional construction activity, also causing further environmental impacts.

In consultation with staff, I have determined that protection of the environment along the Project’s right-of-way across non-federal land is best served by completing construction and restoration activities as quickly as possible. Consequently, pursuant to delegated authority under Title 18 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 375.308(x)(7), and Environmental Condition 2 of the Commission’s October 13, 2017 Order, I authorize the resumption of construction for the Project, except as indicated
below.

Mountain Valley Pipeline has not obtained the rights-of-way and temporary use permits from the federal government needed for the Project to cross federally owned lands. Therefore, construction is still excluded at the following locations:

  • the crossing of the Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike on lands owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in Braxton County, West Virginia; and
  • between milepost 196.0 and milepost 221.0, an area encompassing the two watersheds containing the 3.5 miles of pipeline route across the Jefferson National Forest, in Monroe County, West Virginia and Giles County, Virginia.

Finally, construction is being authorized, with the exceptions note above, because construction will best mitigate further environmental impacts. In order to ensure that Mountain Valley Pipeline achieve that objective, it must take all steps necessary to promptly conduct post-construction restoration as soon as construction is complete. I also remind you that Mountain Valley Pipeline must comply with all applicable remaining terms and conditions of the Commission’s October 13, 2017 Order.

Sincerely,
Terry L. Turpin
Director,
Office of Energy Projects

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