Federal regulators on Wednesday said construction can resume along most of the Mountain Valley Pipeline's route through West Virginia and southwest Virginia.
The authorization comes less than a month after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a stop-work order for the project after a court threw out key permits.
Commission staff said at the time that because of the tossed permits, substantial portions of the project may need to be revised. But a letter Wednesday cited an analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that said the pipeline's approved 303-mile (487-kilometer) route through the Jefferson National Forest is the best alternative, The Roanoke Times reported .
The letter also said that allowing construction to proceed "will best mitigate further environmental impacts."
Construction will still be on hold for a 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) stretch of the pipeline through the national forest, for which Mountain Valley still must obtain a permit, and a segment in Braxton County, West Virginia.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline would run south through the center of West Virginia and connect in southern Virginia to the more than 10,000-mile (16,000-kilometer) Transco pipeline system. An expansion into North Carolina has been proposed.
Pipeline spokeswoman Natalie Cox told the newspaper in an email that the decision means "we will soon be able to bring back a significant amount of workers who were temporarily suspended from their duties on the project."
Environmental groups criticized the decision, and two of FERC's four commissioners said in a statement that they also had concerns.
"We have significant concerns with today's decision to allow construction to resume while required right-of-way and temporary use permits remain outstanding," the statement said.
Information from: The Roanoke Times, http://www.roanoke.com