Nov 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
rejected a motion to stay a permit for the $5.8-$6.0 billion
Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to
Analysts said that court decision on Wednesday - not to stay
the pipeline's Biological Opinion - increases the odds Equitrans
Midstream Corp can put the long-delayed project into
service in the second half of 2021.
The Biological Opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service allows construction in areas inhabited by endangered and
Mountain Valley is one of several oil and gas pipelines
delayed by regulatory and legal fights with environmental and
local groups that found problems with permits issued by
the Trump administration.
When Equitrans started construction in February 2018, it
estimated Mountain Valley would cost about $3.5 billion and be
completed by the end of 2018.
The 303-mile (487.6 km) pipeline was designed to deliver 2
billion cubic feet per day of gas from the Marcellus and Utica
shale in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to consumers in
the Mid Atlantic and Southeast. One billion cubic feet is enough
to supply about 5 million U.S. homes for a day
Analysts said denial of the stay allows Equitrans to
continue construction in areas other than the 25-mile
(40-km)exclusion zone surrounding the Jefferson National Forest
while the court considers the merits of appeals against the
Analysts at Height Capital Markets said the U.S. Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission may decide soon to reduce that
exclusion zone to 7.7 miles.
Height Capital Markets also said Mountain Valley must begin
applying for an individual stream crossing permit in case it
loses an ongoing lawsuit against its Nationwide Permit or
President-elect Joe Biden's administration remands the permit,
both of which seem probable.
The Nationwide Permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
allows the project to cross waterbodies.
"We continue to have high conviction that the project will
be completed, though the Biden administration could delay the
ultimate in-service date to 2022," Height Capital Markets said.
Mountain Valley is owned by units of Equitrans, NextEra
Energy Inc, Consolidated Edison Inc, AltaGas Ltd
and RGC Resources.
(Reporting By Scott DiSavino
Editing by Marguerita Choy)