Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are celebrating a recent court ruling. It effectively cancels permits allowing pipeline developers to build through Jefferson National Forest. And that’s leaving many to ask: what happens next?
Pose that question to developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and they say they’re still on track to have the natural gas pipeline up and running by the first quarter of next year. In a statement, spokesperson Natalie Cox points out that the ruling allows the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service to re-do their permits.
But Nathan Matthews, an attorney with the Sierra Club, says the issues at hand are not necessarily easy fixes.
“So although the court didn’t say - definitively - go back and say no this time, or go back and reject the pipeline, I think that these are significant barriers for the pipeline,” says Matthews.
Whether construction can continue is still a question mark. Developers say the affected 3.6-mile section is just a tiny percentage of the overall project. But as Matthews points out the pipeline can’t exactly jump to a different spot when it hits the edge of the national forest.
“That’s one reason why we believe that construction outside the National Forest should halt while they figure out where they figure out where they get across the national forest, if they get across it at all,” he adds.”
Both parties are still waiting on a decision by FERC to settle that dispute. When the Atlantic Coast Pipeline faced a similar permit issue, FERC decided construction could continue on most of the pipeline, halting construction only on affected area until the permit issue was resolved.