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    Equitrans remains committed to MVP completion in 2023 [UPDATE]


Project dealt another legal setback in April by US Court of Appeals; updates with introduction of federal permitting legislation.

by: Dale Lunan

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Equitrans remains committed to MVP completion in 2023 [UPDATE]

Equitrans Midstream said May 2 it was committed to completing the troubled Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) this year, despite yet another legal setback handed down by the Fourth Circuit US Court of Appeals in April, when it vacated the water quality certification issued by West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2021.

“The MVP project has almost certainly gone through more environmental review and scrutiny than any natural gas pipeline project in US history, and we believe the immense amount of quality work, in-depth analysis, and comprehensive agency conclusions must be recognised at all levels,” Equitrans CEO Thomas Karam said in releasing the company’s Q1 financial results. “This extensive review includes a third Biological Opinion, which was issued in February by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and a second Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which was published by the US Forest Service in April.”

Karam said Equitrans was disappointed but not surprised by the latest Fourth Circuit ruling, in light of the “hostile tone” of oral arguments before the court last October.

“We firmly believe that the issues raised in the court’s decision can and will be addressed by the West Virginia DEP,” he said. “The path to an MVP completion during 2023 is narrower but based on the diligent and comprehensive work being done by the staff at various state and federal agencies and the expected overall permitting timeline, we believe the possibility of commencing forward construction this summer still exists.”

The Fourth Circuit’s ruling, Karam added, only serves to highlight the need for Congressional permitting reform legislation. “We remain encouraged by the bipartisan support for permitting reform and believe there remain prospects for legislation,” he said.

Also on May 2, US Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virgina, introduced his latest measure to address permitting reform for both fossil fuel and renewable energy projects, including a call to complete MVP, which runs through his state. The Building American Energy Security Act would set a two-year limit on environmental reviews of major energy projects and a one-year limit on smaller initiatives and reduce court delays over energy projects.

“There is overwhelming bipartisan recognition that our current permitting processes aren't working, and equally bipartisan support for addressing it through comprehensive permitting reform legislation,” Manchin said in a news release.

For Q1 2023, Equitrans reported net income of $87.1mn, up from $80.5mn in the comparable 2022 period, and adjusted net income (which includes derivative gains and losses) of $96.4mn, up from $79.3mn.

Adjusted EBITDA rose to $299.6mn from $276.9mn, while free cash flow increased to $94.2mn from $23.5mn.