The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled in favor of continuing construction on the on Friday. The natural gas pipeline has already been marked by six years of community opposition, environmental damage, fights, and delays.
In orders filed late Friday afternoon, FERC also lifted a stop-work order for all but a 25-mile segment of the interstate transmission line that includes the Jefferson National Forest and adjacent land.
While acknowledging problems with erosion and sedimentation during the first two years of construction, FERC found that allowing the pipeline to be completed is best for both the environment and the public, according to The Roanoke Times.
“The presence of equipment, personnel, and partially completed construction is disruptive to landowners, some of whom have endured perturbation since February 2018,” the commission wrote in a 2-1 decision.
“As such, proceeding to final restoration is in the best interest of these landowners and the environment.”
While two permits set aside by legal challenges have since been reissued—allowing the pipeline to cross streams and wetlands and for work to resume without jeopardizing endangered wildlife—Mountain Valley still lacks approval to pass through the national forest.
By allowing work in other areas to resume, Commissioner Richard Glick wrote, “the Commission has put the cart before the horse.”
“That is a mistake,” he continued, because even if the Forest Service were to approve the pipeline’s passage through about 3.5 miles of federal woodlands, it could require a different route, “leaving the work done to date little more than a pipeline to nowhere.”