With the United States aiming to supply more LNG (liquefied natural gas) to Europe in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) remains mired in legal cases, but that could change.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., told a virtual press briefing from her Washington office on Thursday that the pipeline is nearly 95% complete, but court cases related to federal licensing processes delayed completion.

That prompted her and Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., to try to streamline approval regarding remaining court cases involving federal permits.

“We see this as a blocking technique (by opponents of the pipeline), as a way of hoping that investors and society will walk away like they did with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP),” Capito said.

In July 2020, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy canceled the $8 billion 600-mile natural gas CPA that would have transported natural gas from north-central West Virginia to Lumberton, North Carolina, due of “legal uncertainty” after spending about $4 billion. .

Opponents of the MVP have expressed optimism the same fate could be met by the 303-mile, 42-inch-diameter MVP, which would run from north-central West Virginia to Chatham, Va., passing through Summers and of Monroe, West Virginia and Giles County, Virginia.

The MVP was originally priced at $3.5 billion and was expected to be operational by the end of 2018. However, protests and lawsuits continue to delay the project, which is now estimated at $6.2 billion and could be completed by the end of 2018. 2023.

Capito said MVP is needed to meet demand here and in Europe, which now needs LNG to replace gas lost due to Russian sanctions.

“We’re looking at energy security and energy independence, our own resources, especially when you frame it with what’s happening in Ukraine,” she said. “We have a lot of pipelines in this country, so it’s not a new concept.”

The latest major setback for MVP was a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Virginia to invalidate approvals previously granted by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. (BLM) to build the pipeline. on federal territory.

This includes the Jefferson National Forest, which MVP must traverse in Monroe and Giles counties, with a total of approximately 3.5 miles on federal lands involved. The pipeline must also pass under the Appalachian Trail where it crosses along the ridge line of Peters Mountain in Monroe County.

“The company asked if they could get it (this legal case) in court in DC,” Capito said. “Most companies don’t want to do this, but it tells you they’ll have a more objective hearing in the DC court. At the same time, we need to make sure that (federal agencies) act faster and fairer to make sure the proper environmental permits are authorized so they can complete this project.

Capito said “it makes good sense, in my opinion,” because the pipeline is nearly 95% complete and needed.

“Our president promised Europe more liquid natural gas,” she said. “Where is he going to get it from? He can get it from West Virginia if we had the infrastructure to handle it.

Time is important, she added.

“It’s frustrating for me to think that it might be another year (before completion), and that’s another year that the company can sit and spend and have an incomplete pipeline and not not get income,” she said. “We try to help as much as we can.”

Manchin showed the same frustration.

“We can’t get a pipeline out of the Marcellus Shale (in north-central West Virginia),” he said recently. “The Mountain Valley pipeline is 95% complete. This means that the pipeline is in the ground, covered and reclaimed (on the ground above). But they were blocked. This pipeline must be connected to the market.

Manchin also requested that the 4th Circuit case in Richmond be transferred to the DC court.

“We need to increase (natural gas supply),” he said, and the Marcellus Shale is the “richest formation in the world.”

According to the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2020 West Virginia produced 7.1% of the natural gas in the United States, with Texas being the largest at 23.9%.

The Brookings Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said US LNG producers pulled out all the stops in response to high European prices and the US became the world’s largest LNG exporter in January, ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Besides undermining U.S. foreign policy, the reduction in LNG exports is unlikely to make much of a difference to domestic prices,” Brookings said on its website. “The United States consistently enjoys some of the lowest natural gas prices in the world. US LNG export capacity is growing, but the US has huge reserves of natural gas and production is expected to increase along with export capacity. The world will eventually move away from natural gas as it transitions to a carbon-free energy system, but the United States should enjoy its natural gas price advantage for the foreseeable future, even with the expansion. exports.

The EIA said Russia provides about 40% of the natural gas needed by European countries, with the United States ready to help fill the void.

Opponents of MVP have pointed to the impact on the environment, particularly in areas like Monroe County which includes karst (underground limestone that has been eroded by dissolution, producing ridges, towers, fissures, sinkholes and other characteristic reliefs), as well as the dangers of a large pipeline which could leak or explode with the instability of the subsoil.

They also questioned the eminent domain component, with many landowners not wanting the pipeline on their land but having no choice.

Opponents said the pipeline was not for the “public good”, but for corporate profit.

For Monroe County landowner Maury Johnson, it’s also a personal matter, a matter of fighting for the environment and rights.

Johnson has fought the MVP since his first appearance in 2014, and here is his response when Project ACP was scrapped:

“Today is a great day for people who have dedicated their lives to educating the public and fighting for their water, air and assets, and leading the way to a cleaner energy future,” Johnson said. . “But the job is only half done. Today we enjoy this victory, but tomorrow we have to redouble our efforts, pull ourselves together and send MVP and MVP Southgate to the scrap heap of bad ideas with the ACP.

— Contact Charles Boothe at [email protected]