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The Federal Energy Commission’s Office of Energy Projects gave its approval late Tuesday, just a day after the pipeline’s builder, Equitrans Midstream, declared the project “mechanically complete.”

Despite ongoing public concerns about the safety of the long-delayed project, the federal government on Tuesday approved the Mountain Valley Pipeline to begin operations.

The Federal Energy Commission’s Office of Energy Projects gave its approval late Tuesday, just a day after the pipeline’s builder, Equitrans Midstream, declared the project “mechanically complete.”

Terry Turpin, director of the Office of Energy Projects, told Equitrans that the 303-mile natural gas pipeline meets environmental and safety requirements.

Turpin cited recent construction status reports, the agency’s compliance monitoring and a staff inspection conducted May 13-17.

He also pointed to communications with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Turpin said that Deputy Director for Pipeline Safety Alan Mayberry said in a phone call Tuesday morning that his agency had no objections to FERC’s approval of the pipeline.

In contrast, dozens of comments opposing the approval have been added to FERC’s public case dockets in recent weeks.

Landowners, environmental groups, state legislators and county commissioners based their opposition in part on a pipeline rupture during a May 1 pressure test in Bent Mountain, Virginia.

Neither regulators nor Equitrans have disclosed the cause of the rupture, nor have they said whether they will share the results of a metallurgical analysis.

The rupture caused an unknown amount of tap water and sediment to enter adjacent properties.

The pipeline is expected to transport up to 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day from West Virginia to Virginia.

Opponents of the nearly $8 billion pipeline have been raising alarms for the decade since it was first proposed. The 42-inch-thick line crosses hundreds of rivers and streams and traverses some of the most remote and rugged areas of the Appalachians.

They were successful in their lawsuits until Congress passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act a year ago, which granted all the permits still needed to complete the pipeline.

Jessica Sims, Virginia field coordinator for Appalachian Voices, said regulators have ignored concerns raised to them locally for years.

“Community members and environmental advocates have been pointing out the flaws in this project for years, and these fundamental problems with the pipeline remain,” she said in a statement. “By pushing ahead with MVP despite all of these serious dangers, the system designed to protect our communities, our land and our water has failed.”

Author: Curtis Tate

Curtis is our energy and environment reporter based in Charleston. He has spent more than 17 years as a reporter and editor for Gannett, Dow Jones and McClatchy. He has written extensively about travel, transportation and Congress for USA TODAY, The Bergen Record, The Lexington Herald-Leader, The Wichita Eagle, The Belleville News-Democrat and The Sacramento Bee. Reach him at [email protected]. View all posts by Curtis Tate

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