MVP heads to the finish line

The Mountain Valley Pipeline may finally be completed later this year. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued its final approval for the 303-mile natural gas pipeline connecting the gas fields of northern West Virginia to Virginia and the east coast.

The last regulatory hurdles were cleared after Congress added a provision to the debt ceiling legislation last month expediting completion of the pipeline. Now construction of the final few miles can resume.

Pipeline opponents and climate activists have not given up. Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative Caroline Hansley has accused Congress of a federal overreach. “Whatever happened to checks and balances?” she asked. “Congress should never have overextended its powers to try to tell the courts how to do their jobs.”

Pipeline opponents want the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to do what it has done repeatedly over the last several years and issue a ruling that will halt construction.

The court has historically been sympathetic to the opponents, typically agreeing that one regulatory agency or another has not performed satisfactory due diligence. However, now the court would have to find a reason to defy an act of Congress.

The opponents like to say Congress is breaking the rules and bypassing the regulatory process. The fact is Equitrans, the pipeline builder, has been trying for years to comply with the demands of regulatory agencies and the courts, but every time they meet the standard, the anti-pipeline groups head back to court to move the goal posts.

Were it not for an act of Congress, the process could have gone on forever, or until Equitrans gave up. The opponents were able to cancel the Atlantic Coast Pipeline using the sue-and-stall tactic and they figured it would work on MVP. The litigation and delays have already doubled the cost of the pipeline to $6.6 billion and held up completion by five years.

State and federal environmental laws and permitting procedures are designed to ensure that projects comply with air, water and soil standards. They are essential to maintaining a reasonable balance between protection and construction. However, pipeline opponents are using the laws as a weapon against carbon-based fuel.

The natural gas reserves under West Virginia are virtually limitless, and these enormous supplies are integral to the energy security of the country. Yes, the energy economy is moving toward renewables, but that transition will take time. Natural gas is a long-term bridge fuel.

With the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, more of the fuel can finally get to market.

HOPPY KERCHEVAL is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at hoppy.kercheval@wvradio.com.