Court denies stay of Biological Opinion permitting work on Equitrans Midstream’s pipeline project

The Mountain Valley Pipeline project is owned by a joint venture, including units of Equitrans Midstream, Consolidated Edison Inc., AltaGas Ltd., and RGC Resources. The MVP project is a 303-mile pipeline designed to carry natural gas from Wetzel County, West Virginia to Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The natural gas to be transported in the 42” pipeline from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus and Utica shale. Once complete, the pipeline will have a daily capacity of two billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Equitrans Midstream began construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project in February 2018 at an estimated total cost of $3.5 billion with an anticipated completion date at the end of 2018. Construction proceeded based in part on a Biological Opinion from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service allowing construction along the proposed route, except in a 25-mile zone around the Jefferson National Forest.

A court appeal from the Biological Opinion was followed by a request for a stay pending the outcome of the appeal. Granting a stay would have brought construction on the project to a halt. On Wednesday, November 18, 2020, a decision by the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request for a stay. The decision does not determine the outcome of the appeal but leaves the Biological Opinion and Equitrans Midstream’s right to continue construction in place while the appeal is being decided. While the project is obviously long-delayed considering an original completion target for the end of 2018. Equitrans Midstream anticipates being able to complete the project now by the second half of 2021.

Equitrans Midstream trades on the NYSE under the symbol ETRN. Over the past 52 weeks, Equitrans Midstream has traded between a low of $3.75 (on March 19, 2020) and $13.815 (on January 7, 2020). On the date of the court decision denying a stay of the Biological Opinion, ETRN’s share price closed at $7.46 (on volume of 10,935,978 shares compared to average trading volume of 4,545,689). One day later, the share price closed at $7.92.

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