US Appeals Court Rejects Challenge to Mountain Valley Pipeline

(Reuters) — A U.S. appeals court on Friday rejected a challenge to federal approvals for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, in a decision that likely ends legal fights over the construction of the $6.6 billion natural gas project led by Equitrans Midstream.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, said, “There is no longer a live controversy” to consider after Congress in May passed a law expressly ratifying approvals for the 303-mile (488-km) pipeline running through West Virginia and Virginia.

The U.S. Supreme Court in late July lifted orders the 4th Circuit issued earlier in the month temporarily blocking construction on a final 3.5-mile (5.6-km) segment of the pipeline through the Jefferson National Forest.

“I think this is the end of the potential legal challenges, really, when it comes down to it,” said attorney Jared Margolis of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of several groups challenging the project in court.

A representative for the developer said it is "committed to finalizing" work on the project by the end of 2023.

The U.S. Interior Department declined to comment.

Mountain Valley is owned by units of Equitrans Midstream, the lead partner building the pipeline, as well as NextEra Energy, Consolidated Edison, AltaGas and RGC Resources among others.

The pipeline was initially projected to be finished by late 2018 but was delayed by opposition from groups that claimed it would cause environmental damage and increase the use of climate change-causing natural gas.

Proponents of the pipeline claim it is key to unlocking more gas from Appalachia, the biggest shale gas-producing basin in the United States.

Approval for the pipeline was included in the debt limit deal struck in May between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

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