U.S. energy company Equitrans Midstream Corp. said on Nov. 1 that the best path to complete its Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia by the second half of 2023 was through U.S. permitting reform legislation.

Equitrans also said in its third-quarter earnings release that federal legislation would help the company stick to its previously-announced $6.6 billion budget for the project.

Mountain Valley–the only big gas pipe under construction in Appalachia—is one of several U.S. pipeline projects delayed by regulatory and legal fights with environmental and local groups. These fights stem from federal permit problems issued during President Donald Trump’s administration.

The project is key to unlocking more gas supplies from Appalachia, the nation’s biggest shale gas basin.

In early August, Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin secured a commitment from President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to enact permitting reform legislation that would also allow the long-delayed Mountain Valley to be completed.

To gain those commitments, Manchin agreed to support Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA has since passed but despite Biden’s, Schumer’s and Pelosi’s efforts, there was not enough other support in Congress to keep permitting reform in the legislation.

“There continues to be significant, bipartisan support for federal energy infrastructure permitting reform legislation,” Equitrans CEO Thomas Karam said in a release.

“However ... the same panel of judges in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has again been assigned and appears hostile in a (Mountain Valley) permitting case,” Karam said.

He was referring to Equitrans’ perceptions of “continued hostility” of the Fourth Circuit panel during oral argument on Oct. 25 in a case seeking to overturn Mountain Valley’s water quality certification from West Virginia, which is just one of several permits still under court review. Read full story

The Fourth Circuit has already vacated several of the project’s permits—some more than once.

When Mountain Valley construction started in February 2018, Equitrans estimated the 303-mile (488-km), 2 Bcf/d project would cost about $3.5 billion and enter service by late 2018.

Equitrans has said the pipeline was “nearly 94% complete.”

Equitrans owns about 48.1% of Mountain Valley and will operate the pipeline.

Mountain Valley is owned by units of Equitrans, NextEra Energy Inc., Consolidated Edison Inc., AltaGas Ltd. and RGC Resources Inc.