By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration has supported for the second time in a week the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline, a project a key Democratic senator has pushed in legislation to speed permitting of fossil fuel and power transmission projects.
Equitrans Midstream Corp’s $6.6 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline has been opposed by environmental activists, but has won the backing of Biden administration officials, including Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. She has said the United States must concentrate on energy security as well as the transition to renewable energy.
“The Bureau of Land management (BLM) today issued a Record of Decision for the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” the office, part of the Department of Interior, said in a release. “The BLM is moving forward with the next step, processing the revised right-of-way application for the project.”
A BLM official said in an interview that the legal decision on the right of way had been made but not sent to the company yet. As part of the decision, the company cannot start construction until it receives remaining federal and state permits, the official said.
Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, has introduced a bill to speed fossil fuel and transmission line projects to transport power from renewable projects. His bill calls on the Biden administration to approve the pipeline that would run through his state. Manchin’s legislation is one of several proposals in Congress on permitting.
The pipeline, which would unlock gas supplies from Appalachia, the country’s biggest shale gas basin, still needs review and permitting including in West Virginia. The project could still be held up or blocked by lawsuits from opponents.
Manchin said the BLM move was “the next step in the process to finally complete this vital piece of energy infrastructure that will strengthen our energy and national security, boost the economy in West Virginia and benefit the entire nation by bringing more than 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas online daily that will help power homes and businesses.”
The U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday issued a permit allowing the pipeline to run through the Jefferson National Forest straddling Virginia and West Virginia.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
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