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Regulators extend deadline 3 years for gas pipeline into NC
Regulators extend deadline 3 years for gas pipeline into NC

Federal regulators on Tuesday gave developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline three more years to finish construction of an extension of the natural gas pipeline from Virginia into North Carolina.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline’s Southgate extension was approved in 2020 and was supposed to be finished by this past June. It’s planned to carry natural gas from the main Mountain Valley Pipeline in southern Virginia into North Carolina’s Rockingham and Alamance Counties.

But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) agreed with the developer that legal and permitting delays with the main Mountain Valley Pipeline made it impossible to meet the deadline.

The $6.6 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline is being built to carry fracked natural gas more than 300 miles from West Virginia to Virginia. Environmental groups have fought the pipeline and it has been plagued by legal and permitting delays. Developers put the Southgate extension on hold while they fought to win approval for the main pipeline.

Then in June, Congress gave the main pipeline project the go-ahead for final construction as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

So the developers then applied to FERC for an extension of the deadline on the planned 75-mile Southgate extension.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and other elected officials from North Carolina and Virginia had urged regulators to deny the deadline extension.

But FERC decided that delays with the main pipeline warranted pushing back the deadline on the Southgate extension. In an order Tuesday, regulators said:

“Before the construction of the Mainline System was jumpstarted by the passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, it was reasonable for Mountain Valley to have anticipated further delay over the necessary federal permits and expect that it was all but impossible to meet the Certificate Order’s in-service date for the Southgate Project of June 18, 2023. Based on the foregoing, we conclude that Mountain Valley has made a good faith effort to meet its deadline, but encountered circumstances that prevented it from doing so.”

The developers now have June 18, 2026, to build the Southgate pipeline.

It has faced its own local delays. State officials in North Carolina had denied the Southgate project a water quality permit. Virginia officials also refused to issue a needed air quality permit for a compressor station in Virginia, citing environmental justice concerns.

On Tuesday, opponents expressed disappointment at FERC’s decision to let the project continue.

“We are disappointed in FERC’s decision to grant an extension for this boondoggle of a project even after impacted residents, environmental justice organizations and state leaders — like Governor Cooper — came out in droves to urge the commission to deny MVP’s request. Our fight to ensure that this extension never sees completion is not over,” the Sierra Club’s Caroline Hansley said in a statement.

Ridge Graham, North Carolina program manager for Appalachian Voices, said: “FERC’s decision disregards the tens of thousands who weighed in asking for denial of the certificate extension. Granting MVP Southgate more time to potentially endanger communities and water resources is appalling given that MVP has made no attempts to reapply for missing permits.”

Graham also said MVP has failed to demonstrate a need for the pipeline extension in North Carolina.

Duke Energy has said it needs access to natural gas to fuel the planned expansion of its fleet of gas-fired power plants in North Carolina.

In a letter to FERC on Monday, four members of Congress from North Carolina and Virginia had urged the commission to deny the deadline extension.

Reps. Valerie Foushee and Kathy Manning of North Carolina and Reps. Jennifer McClellan and Bobby Scott of Virginia wrote: “As Members of Congress committed to addressing the climate crisis, we echo the requests of impacted community members and leaders. If built, this pipeline would lock homes and businesses in the Southeast into the long-term use of natural gas during a critical moment in which we must transition away from fossil fuels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

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