More delays, cost increases for Mountain Valley Pipeline

Restored land along the Mountain Valley Pipeline path included in an October 2020 inspection report to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (FERC)

Mountain Valley Pipeline announced Tuesday morning it would push back its completion date to summer 2022 and raise the expected price tag of the project to $6.2 billion. 

The setbacks are the latest for the controversial 303-mile pipeline planned to carry natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields in West Virginia into southern Virginia. 

In an investor call Tuesday, Diana Charletta, chief operating officer and executive vice president of Equitrans Midstream, the primary developer behind Mountain Valley, attributed the changes to extensions sought by environmental regulators in Virginia and West Virginia to review new stream-crossing permits. 

After a long struggle to get a blanket authorization for all of its water crossings from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mountain Valley in January reversed course and announced it would seek individual approvals. 

Virginia, however, this March notified the Army Corps of Engineers that it did not expect to complete its review of stream crossing impacts and issue a necessary state permit until December 2021 or early 2022

“We do support and expect that the Army Corps will grant additional review time and as a result we do not believe that we will receive the necessary approvals during the third quarter of 2021 which we previously expected,” Charletta said during Tuesday’s call. 

Mountain Valley Pipeline was initially expected to be completed in 2018 at a cost of $3.7 billion. Intense public opposition and high-profile problems with erosion and sedimentation have dogged the project, however, and led the developers to pay Virginia a $2.15 million civil penalty for environmental violations in October 2019. 

Environmental groups celebrated the newest round of delays Tuesday. 

“MVP’s projections have proven wrong over and over again, because they all presumed regulators would rush through approvals and that those approvals could be upheld in court. That strategy has failed so far and it should fail again,” said Dave Sligh, conservation director of Wild Virginia, one of many groups that has fought the pipeline. 

Talking to investors, Equitrans Midstream CEO Tom Karam argued that “the most environmentally sound thing we can do at this point” is to complete the pipeline.

“Part of the frustration that we’ve felt around MVP … is that we’ve continued to have the right of way open when we could have otherwise permanently restored it and we’re on many landowners’ property for far too long,” he said. “And what our hope and objective is here now is to get these comprehensive regulatory reviews done as quickly as we can.”