(Recasts, adds analysts and company comments)
Jan 26 (Reuters) - After a series of setbacks, the companies building the U.S. Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline now plan to seek individual permits to cross each stream remaining in its path, and analysts say that will delay its startup until 2022.
The Mountain Valley line, a $5.8 billion-$6.0 billion project that stretches from West Virginia to Virginia, is one of a series of energy infrastructure projects that have been delayed by legal opposition and regulatory problems.
Equitrans Midstream Corp, the lead company building the pipeline, said in a federal filing on Tuesday that Mountain Valley would seek individual stream crossing permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, among other things. Those permits became necessary after environmental groups successfully challenged a program that allowed the crossing of a series of streams and rivers under one authorization.
EQT says the line should still be completed by the end of 2021.
“With (Mountain Valley’s) total project work roughly 92% complete, we believe that this prudent change in course is the most efficient regulatory path to completing the remaining components of this important natural gas infrastructure project and keeping within our current budget and schedule,” Equitrans spokeswoman Natalie Cox said.
Previously, the project relied on the Army Corps’ Nationwide Permit 12 program, which covered all stream crossings in one authorization.
Height Capital Markets analysts projected that the additional time needed to file for new permits would push Mountain Valley’s in-service date into the first half of 2022.
“We expect the Biden Administration will agree with environmentalists and the Fourth Circuit (Court of Appeals) panel that (Mountain Valley’s) Nationwide Permit 12 authorization is flawed and require individual stream crossing permits,” analysts at Height Capital Markets said.
When construction of Mountain Valley started in February 2018, Equitrans estimated the 303-mile (487.6-km) pipeline would cost about $3.5 billion and be completed by the end of 2018.
A unit of NextEra Energy Inc, one of the companies involved in the pipeline, took an impairment charge of $1.2 billion on its investment in Mountain Valley due to numerous cost overruns and delays. (Reporting by Shariq Khan in Bengaluru and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Paul Simao)