Equitrans Midstream, the operator of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, said Tuesday it has entered into an agreement with the federal government’s pipeline safety agency to increase transparency over completion of the pipeline’s construction.
The announcement comes after the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Safety Order in August, saying comprehensive assessments were needed “to identify and remediate any coating deficiencies, potential corrosion issues, and any potential land movement-related effects on previously installed pipe.”
PHMSA said at the time that its inspectors had been focusing on corrosion control and coating remediation for pipeline segments that have been exposed to the elements and ultraviolet radiation in recent years. Pipeline critics have argued that such exposure has exceeded safe limits, rendering pipeline segments unfit to use.
The new consent agreement names an independent third-party engineering firm — Pennsylvania-based KTA-Tator Inc. — to audit Mountain Valley’s pipeline coating activities. The agreement also accelerates the schedules for inspections and surveys necessary to verify the integrity of the pipeline and key pipeline components, Equitrans Midstream said.
“Mountain Valley will continue to work closely with PHMSA and other regulators to maintain its high standards of safety and environmental stewardship as the project enters its final construction phase,” Equitrans Midstream said in a news release.
Mountain Valley Pipeline is a $6.6 billion, 303-mile natural gas pipeline project set to run from West Virginia into Virginia, where it passes through Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke and Franklin counties before connecting to a compressor station in Pittsylvania County.
First announced in 2014 and initially expected to be complete in 2018, the project was delayed for years as opponents brought permitting challenges and legal battles over its impact on the environment and private property. Equitrans Midstream says the pipeline now is more than 90% done and the company hopes to have it up and running this year.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act that was signed into law June 3 to avoid the federal government defaulting on its debts also contained a provision greenlighting the remaining government permits the pipeline needed. In August, the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed environmentalists’ lawsuits against the pipeline, saying that the Fiscal Responsibility Act provision had also eliminated its jurisdiction over those cases.