Mountain Valley Pipeline changes strategy on permits

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — Mountain Valley Pipeline says it will abandon its plan to use a blanket permit to cross nearly 500 streams and wetlands.

The Roanoke Times reported Tuesday that the pipeline project will instead apply for individual approvals for each open-cut crossing.

That will make for a more costly and time-consuming process for a project that is already swamped by legal and regulatory delays. But Mountain Valley attorney Todd Normane said in a letter Tuesday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that switching to individual permits is “the most efficient and effective path to project completion.”

The federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has twice set aside the blanket permit. Critics have said that it fails to adequately assess the environmental impacts of a massive pipeline fording pristine mountain streams.

The project has faced various legal challenges from environmental groups because construction has led to violations of regulations meant to control erosion and sedimentation.

Despite its change in strategy, Mountain Valley said it still expects to complete the project by year's end at a projected cost of about $6 billion. That's nearly twice the original estimate.

The 303-mile pipeline will take natural gas drilled from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations and transport it through West Virginia and Virginia.