The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled this week to grant the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) four more years to complete the construction of the project and begin operation. Announced in 2014, the 303-mile-long pipeline project runs from Wetzel County, West Virginia to Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The MVP initially received a FERC certificate in 2017 and began construction in early 2018. Although the project is 94% complete, full completion of the project has been stymied by legal challenges and regulatory setbacks.
FERC’s extension is significant for multiple reasons. It provides clarity to the project’s stakeholders, including both investors and the federal agencies that issue the necessary permits. It also serves as an example that superfluous litigation will not be used to effectively kill energy infrastructure projects. FERC commissioners rejected the notion that the organization should reevaluate its environmental review of the pipeline. “There has been no showing that the environmental effects of the project have changed materially since the Commission authorized the project,” FERC said.
Although this is a step in the right direction, FERC included troublesome language in its extension order, stating, “the environment is subject to change, and that the validity of our conclusions and environmental conditions cannot be sustained indefinitely.” This vague wording would allow FERC to revisit completed environmental reviews whenever it would like, effectively making any analyses temporary.
As gas prices continue to fall, the U.S. should not sit back and celebrate this brief respite. The administration’s priority should be supporting energy and relaxing regulations on domestic energy producers so that prices continue to drop.