Charles Young, WV News

May 30, 2023

WASHINGTON (WV News) — Provisions in the debt ceiling deal currently before Congress would see current legal challenges against the Mountain Valley Pipeline project dismissed, according to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Manchin, during a press call Tuesday, said he expects the deal to pass Wednesday, all but assuring the completion of the long-delayed MVP project.

“The way it has been written, it prohibits judicial review of permits needed to construct the MVP,” Manchin said. “This prohibition extends to cases that are ongoing in the Fourth Circuit of Appeals, which should be dismissed if this bill passes.”

While most litigation against the project would be prohibited, the legislation would require cases related to the MVP to be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Manchin said.

“The bottom line is — it’s gone though, I don’t how many times — it’s been through the court system eight or nine times,” he said.

Manchin added that he’s been told the repeated court reviews of the pipeline were unprecedented.

Manchin and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who have each repeatedly backed measures to aid the completion of the MVP, announced the pipeline project would be included in the debt ceiling package on Sunday.

“Despite delay after delay, we continued to fight to get this critical natural gas pipeline up and running, and its inclusion in this deal is a significant victory for the future of West Virginia,” Capito said in a statement.

According to the text of the proposed debt ceiling package, the secretary of the U.S. Army would be required to issue “all permits or verifications necessary” to complete the MVP’s remaining construction and operation and maintenance “not later than 21 days” after the legislation is enacted.

On May 11, ahead of a U.S. Senate Energy Committee hearing Thursday that will focus on permitting, Manchin, who chairs the committee, vowed to see the project finished.

“We’re committed, and the MVP is going to be built,” he said. “It must be for the security of our nation.”

The Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia released a statement applauding the inclusion of the MVP in the debt ceiling deal.

“An abundance of clean burning natural gas is one of the most important resources we’re blessed with in America. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is key to bringing more of this energy produced in the Appalachia Basin, the largest source of natural gas in the country, to users across the nation while lowering energy costs and supporting job creation in West Virginia,” GO-WV Executive Director Charlie Burd said.

The MVP project is a natural gas transmission pipeline planned to span approximately 303 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, transporting natural gas from the Mountain State to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic regions.

In West Virginia, the MVP’s route is planned to include Braxton, Doddridge, Fayette, Greenbrier, Harrison, Lewis, Monroe, Nicholas, Summers, Webster and Wetzel counties.

The project has faced repeated delays, setbacks and halts due to regulatory challenges brought by environmental activists and other stakeholders opposed to the pipeline.

When the project was initially announced in 2014, developers said it was expected to cost around $3.5 billion and would be completed by the end of 2018.The cost of the project, which is around 94% complete, is now expected to be in excess of $6.5 billion, according to its developers.