Biden Administration Bucks Eco Groups Again, Advances Massive Gas Pipeline
The Biden administration issued a critical approval Thursday evening for a 303½-mile West Virginia-to-Virginia natural gas pipeline project that environmental groups argued would have disastrous impacts.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published a record of decision approving a 30-year right-of-way permit and a temporary use permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, allowing the project to proceed on a 3½-mile stretch of the Jefferson National Forest along the West Virginia-Virginia border.
In a separate decision earlier this week, the U.S. Forest Service said the pipeline could be constructed in the federal forest.
“The Bureau of Land Management issued a record of decision for the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” BLM spokesperson Kristen Peters said in a statement. “The BLM is moving forward with the next step, processing the revised right-of-way application for the project.”
Mitchell Leverette, director of BLM’s Eastern States region, and Deputy Interior Secretary Tommy Beaudreau both signed the record of the decision Thursday.
The determination clears the way to finish the billion-dollar project that is 94% complete but has been mired in a lengthy permitting process for years.
Overall, the pipeline would transport about two billion cubic feet per day of natural gas from West Virginia to consumers in the Mid- and South Atlantic.
Before construction can be completed, the project must receive authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages a 60-foot stretch of a West Virginia trail the pipeline would need to cross.
And a federal court struck down a permit issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in April, requiring the agency to issue a revised permit.
In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recent permitting decision in favor of the pipeline is being challenged in federal court.
Environmental groups are also poised to challenge the BLM and Forest Service permits, potentially delaying construction further. …
The project has received backing from Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and lawmakers including Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.
The West Virginia senator has argued it would create 2,500 construction jobs, $40 million in new tax revenue for his home state, $10 million in new tax revenue for Virginia, and up to $250 million in royalties for West Virginia landowners. …
Mountain Valley Pipeline operator Equitrans announced last year it expected the pipeline to go into service during the second half of 2023. Federal regulators gave the company until 2026 to complete the project.
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