Federal energy regulators late Friday approved two controversial natural gas pipelines proposed for construction through West Virginia.
FERC’s orders — a combined 291 pages long — included a variety of conditions that apply to the approvals, and it was not entirely clear Friday night the impact of those conditions or how the commission’s action would affect pending ligation and other permit reviews for the projects.
For example, the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s state water quality certification was approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection, but then pulled back when confronted with a strong legal challenge. A DEP motion to re-examine the project’s water quality impacts remains pending with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline project has not yet received its water quality certification from the state DEP.
Still, FERC approval for both pipelines had been anticipated, after President Donald Trump’s appointees Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson joined President Barack Obama appointee Cheryl LaFleur on the commission.
The two projects are among a collection of pipelines that are proposed or under construction across the region that are meant to take advantage of the Marcellus gas boom, but are drawing opposition from local citizens and from national environmental groups.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline project would run from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Pittsylvania County, Virginia, and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run from Harrison County to southeast North Carolina.
In both cases, LaFleur dissented from the FERC approvals. She cited both concerns about the environmental effects and questions about whether both projects were really needed.
“Both projects appear to be receiving gas from the same location, and both deliver gas that can reach some common destination markets,” LaFleur wrote.
“Given these similarities and overlapping issues, I believe it is appropriate to balance the collective environmental impacts of these projects on the Appalachian region against the economic need for the projects,” LaFleur wrote. “In so doing, I am not persuaded that both of these projects as proposed are in the public interest.”