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Fight Song - An Epic Battle Brews Over the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project

Even an “Act of Congress” may not be enough to keep the Mountain Valley Pipeline out of trouble. The long-stalled natural gas takeaway project in Appalachia briefly appeared to be unfettered from regulatory and legal shackles after Congress rolled an MVP mandate into the debt-ceiling bill — the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) of 2023. With the MVP provision, Congress effectively approved all required permits for the greenfield project without judicial review in a bid to fast-track the completion and initial startup of the pipeline. The FRA, which President Biden signed into law on June 3, appeared to instantly clear MVP’s path. But that reprieve didn’t last long. Earlier this week, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals once again halted construction of the project, seemingly in defiance of the FRA, setting the stage for a fight at the Supreme Court. In today’s RBN blog, we break down the latest developments and how they impact MVP’s prospects.

Before we dive into what’s happened this week, let’s get a quick refresher about what the MVP project is all about. The pipeline is designed to connect Appalachian gas supply to growing power generation markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, including southern Virginia and, via the MVP Southgate extension, North Carolina. The MVP mainline (dashed pink line in Figure 1) is a ~300-mile, 42-inch-diameter pipe with an initial capacity of 2 Bcf/d, which the sponsor has said can be expanded by an incremental 500 MMcf/d through additional compression.

MVP Southgate (dashed purple line in Figure 1) was initially proposed as a 75-mile extension from the tailgate of the MVP mainline near Chatham, VA, to an end point in Alamance County, NC, about 50 miles south of the Virginia-North Carolina border. Given the permitting issues, MVP’s lead sponsor and prospective operator, Equitrans Midstream Partners LP (EQM), had said it was reevaluating the extension, and since the FRA’s enactment, it has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for more time — until June 2026 — to complete it. (That filing has spurred strong opposition of its own. See our weekly NATGAS Appalachia report for the latest on MVP and other pipelines in the area.)

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