Biden administration grants Mountain Valley Pipeline permit

FILE PHOTO: Lengths of pipe wait to be laid in the ground along the under-construction Mountain Valley Pipeline near Elliston, Virginia

By Timothy Gardner

(Reuters) -The Biden administration on Tuesday approved a permit to allow the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline, a project a key Democratic senator has pushed in legislation to speed permitting of fossil fuel and renewable energy projects.

The permit, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, allows the Equitrans Midstream Corp $6.6 billion Mountain Valley pipeline to run through the Jefferson National Forest straddling Virginia and West Virginia.

The project, which would unlock gas supplies from Appalachia, the country's biggest shale gas basin, is still undergoing review and permitting including by West Virginia and the U.S. Department of Interior, the Forest Service said in a release. "It would be inappropriate for USDA to get ahead of those additional Federal and State review and permitting decisions," it added.

Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat of West Virginia, has introduced a bill to speed fossil fuel and renewable energy projects that calls on the administration to approve the pipeline.

"While I’m pleased with the announcement from the Forest Service, the job isn’t done yet, and I will keep pushing the administration and all involved to finally complete the last 20 miles (32.2 km) of this vital pipeline," Manchin said in a statement.

The Biden administration has supported Manchin's bill saying it would help renewable energy companies reap the benefit of billions of dollars of tax credits contained in last year's Inflation Reduction Act.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline has been opposed by environmental activists, but won the backing of Biden administration officials, including Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.

Equitrans said this month it expects federal agencies to issue required authorizations in the coming months, which could allow it to finish it by the end the year. Equitrans warned in its first quarter earnings, however, that "there remains significant risk and uncertainty, including regarding current and likely litigation."

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner, Katherine Jackson, Dan Whitcomb and Valerie Volcovici; editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates)