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Mountain Valley Pipeline asks federal judge to override permit denial


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — Mountain Valley Pipeline is asking a federal judge to override the Fayette County commission’s Nov. 17 refusal to rezone a parcel it needs for a compressor station.

MVP claims the commissioners didn’t have the authority to reject their application because the compressor station is part of a $3.5 billion interstate pipeline for natural gas.

MVP says the compressor station, one of three the company plans to build along the 304-miles of pipeline from Wetzel to Braxton counties in West Virginia, is key to keeping the project on track for a December 2018 completion date. MVP says the West Virginia portion of the work will cost more than $800 million.

The company said the success of the project “is dependent upon its timely completion” because under the agreements for the sale of the gas, the shippers’ obligations aren’t binding until construction is finished.

“Even if MVP pursues a legal challenge to that decision … the rezoning denial will result in an unreasonable delay in the construction of the Stallworth Station that will increase MVP’s expenses, diminish its revenue and delay the delivery of the significant benefits that the MVP Project will bring to the public,” the company stated.

Because friction and elevation changes cause pressure drops, MVP said natural gas going through pipelines must be periodically compressed. The company said it chose a “relatively secluded” tract in Fayette County for the project, suggesting it was “far superior to other potential sites in terms of topography, site access, surrounding land use (including population density and distance from residences) and overall environmental considerations.”

“It will require significantly less cut and fill to achieve a buildable site, is easily accessible from the nearby County Route 29, and is located on the top of a hill with dense deciduous forest all around it,” MVP said.

In its complaint, MVP said the rezoning request was denied without explanation following a public hearing. Three months earlier, however, they said the zoning enforcement office’s resource coordinator submitted a report recommending the application be denied. Although the report had been several weeks in the making, MVP said it was “never made aware of (the) effort and did not know that any such report was being prepared” and was not given the opportunity to respond.

MVP claims it also had requested an accelerated hearing on its application, but commissioners, “without any specific comment regarding (the) request … declined to schedule a special meeting for its consideration.”

And because the pipeline involves the interstate transportation of natural gas, MVP insists the Natural Gas Act and Pipeline Safety Act both trump local rules — completely pre-empting “any state or local law or regulation that would affect the construction and/or operation” of a FERC-authorized gas transportation project. MVP says FERC — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — issued them a certificate of necessity in October.

MVP say 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day will be pumped through its pipeline. Construction of the three compressor stations “will take longer than construction of the pipeline segments, and therefore it is important that construction (of them) begin before pipeline construction is commenced.”

Compressor stations will also be built in Wetzel and Braxton counties.

“The county commission is seeking to implement and enforce county laws in a manner that conflicts with federal law, because that denial would delay and stand as an obstacle to the NGA and PSA’s exclusive federal regulation over the siting, construction, and operation of facilities for the interstate transportation of natural gas, including the Stallworth Compressor Station as authorized,” MVP wrote, pointing out the appeal process would lead to extensive delays.

The complaint, filed by Timothy Miller, Christopher Power and Jennifer Hicks of Babst Calland Clements & Zomnir, Charleston, names as defendants Fayette County’s three commissioners — Matthew Wender, Denise Scalph and John G. Brenemen.

County officials referred questions to the prosecuting attorney, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

Staff writer Linda Harris can be reached at 304-374-0403 or email [email protected]

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