Contentious Mountain Valley Pipeline begins operation days after federal approval

The controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline has begun operations days after receiving its final approval from the federal energy regulator, the company behind it announced Friday morning.

“This is an important and long-awaited day for our Nation and the millions of Americans who now have greater access to an abundant supply of domestic natural gas for use as an affordable, reliable, and cleaner energy resource,” said Diana Charletta, president and CEO of pipeline operator Equitrans Midstream Corporation, in a statement. “Natural gas is an essential fuel for modern life, and, as a critical infrastructure project, the Mountain Valley Pipeline will play an integral role in achieving a lower-carbon future while helping to ensure America’s energy and economic security for decades to come.”

The pipeline is set to carry natural gas across more than 300 miles between northwestern West Virginia and southern Virginia. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a bipartisan body independent from the White House, announced the project’s approval Wednesday.

The pipeline has been a divisive issue among Democratic lawmakers. Sen. Joe Manchin (I-W.Va.), who served as a Democrat until recently registering as an independent, was one of its most vocal backers, while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also promoted it in connection with a deal on permitting reform that secured Manchin’s vote for the Inflation Reduction Act.

However, the project was opposed by environmental advocates, while Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), considered a moderate within the Democratic caucus, opposed the pipeline’s inclusion specifically in a deal to raise the federal debt limit last summer, saying Congress’s purview did not include the approval of individual projects. Kaine earlier this week voted against the nomination of former Manchin staffer David Rosner to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in protest of the pipeline approval process.

The approval followed an extensive legal battle in which a federal appeals court in Richmond blocked the pipeline despite the debt ceiling including a provision that removed its jurisdiction from the matter.

Manchin celebrated the opening at an event with Equitrans Midstream Executive Chairman Tom Karan and CEO Toby Rice, hailing West Virginia’s “legacy as America’s energy powerhouse.”

“This pipeline is essential in ensuring the nation’s energy and national security and providing affordable, reliable natural gas to hundreds of thousands of Americans. And today, with the Mountain Valley Pipeline officially in service, we are continuing to fulfill that legacy,” Manchin said.

Updated at 3:57 p.m. EDT

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