Federal regulators have ordered all construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to temporarily cease.
In a letter sent Friday, Aug. 3, by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to pipeline officials, the agency ordered construction to stop across the pipeline’s entire 303-mile route.
“MVP is hereby notified that construction activity along all portions of the Project and in all work areas must cease immediately, with the exception of any measures deemed necessary by those land managing agencies or FERC staff to ensure the stabilization of the right of way and work areas,” the letter stated.
Federal officials said the stop work order follows a decision last week by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that invalidated approvals for pipeline construction in Jefferson National Forest.
The court’s ruling vacated federal permits granted by Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service that allowed the pipeline to be constructed through federal lands. Although the decision only affected 3.6 miles of the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s route, FERC told pipeline developers that until new permits are issued, all construction must stop.
The agency said it expects new federal permits to ultimately be issued, but noted it’s unclear how quickly that will happen and if the same route will be approved. Until then, only work necessary to stabilize any ongoing construction can continue.
Although the decision is temporary, environmental groups that oppose the pipeline cheered FERC’s decision.
Sierra Club senior attorney Nathan Matthews said in a statement the group was “relieved” that construction has been temporarily halted across the entire pipeline route.
“This order is a victory for everyone who values clean water and a wake-up call for those who think they can put profits over people,” he said. “There is no right way to build these dirty, dangerous fracked gas pipelines and we will continue to fight them until construction is stopped permanently."
MVP spokeswoman Natalie Cox said in an emailed statement that the pipeline developers disagree with FERC's decision to halt all pipeline construction. She said MVP is confident the BLM and Forest Service will be able to satisfy the court's requirements laid out in its July 27 ruling.
"In addition, we are confident that the BLM has reached the correct conclusion regarding the impracticality of the MVP alternatives as initially reviewed and believe the BLM has the necessary information to supplement and enhance their rationale," the statement said. "Given the fact that MVP has halted operations in the JNF, we respectfully disagree with the breadth of the August 3, 2018 stop work order. We will continue to work closely with all agencies to resolve these issues and look forward to continuing the safe construction of this important infrastructure project."
This story was updated on 08/05 to correct the date of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals most recent ruling.