ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service has given the Mountain Valley Pipeline its approval to cross federal forestland in Virginia and West Virginia.
The authorization marks another milestone for the proposed 303-mile underground natural gas pipeline, which was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October.
The Roanoke Times reports the pipeline’s route would traverse about 3.5 miles through parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Giles and Montgomery counties in Virginia and Monroe County, West Virginia.
About 83 acres of forest land would be affected during construction. Forty-two acres will bear the longer-term impacts of tree clearing for permanent rights-of-way along 50-foot-wide swaths.
Although the area directly impacted is relatively small compared to the 1.8 million acres in the Jefferson and George Washington national forests, critics said the consequences will be sweeping.
The Forest Service granted approval last month for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross 5.1 miles of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia and 15.9 miles of the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, impacting about 430 acres of forestland.
An MVP official couldn’t be reached by the newspaper for comment Friday. The company has said it hopes to have the project completed by late next year.
Other regulatory hurdles still remain, including a pending Virginia water quality certification.
The Sierra Club also pledged to challenge the Forest Service decision.