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    US court vacates certain Mountain Valley approvals


Ruling places pipeline's 2022 completion expectation in jeopardy.

by: Dale Lunan

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US court vacates certain Mountain Valley approvals

The US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in a ruling handed down January 25, has invalidated certain US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approvals granted to Equitrans Midstream’s Mountain Valley Pipeline and ordered the agencies to re-examine their authorisations as they apply to a portion of the pipeline’s route through the Jefferson National Forest.

Mountain Valley is a planned 2bn ft3/day, $6.2bn natural gas pipeline that has been under construction for several years across West Virginia and Virginia. It has been beset by several regulatory issues and environmental issues, the latest of which was an appeal to the US Court of Appeals by a group of environmentalists led by the Sierra Club.

In its ruling, the court agreed with the Sierra Club and other petitioners that the Forest Service and the BLM did not adequately consider the sedimentation and erosion impacts of the pipeline, prematurely authorised the use of conventional bore technology to construct stream crossings and failed to comply with the Forest Service’s 2012 Planning Rule covering soil and riparian resources.

“Therefore, we grant the petitions for review as to those errors; deny the petitions with regard to petitioners’ remaining arguments about the predecisional review process, alternative routes, and increased collocation; vacate the decisions of the Forest Service and the BLM; and remand this matter to the agencies for further proceedings consistent with this opinion,” the court ruled.

In an email to Reuters, Equitrans said it was reviewing the court’s decision and will be “expeditiously evaluating” its next steps and “timing considerations.” The pipeline is nearly complete – save for a portion through the Jefferson National Forest – and was to have been placed in service this summer.