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Equitrans on track to finish Mountain Valley natgas pipe in early 2021

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Sept 8 (Reuters) - U.S. pipeline company Equitrans Midstream Corp said on Tuesday it remains on track to complete the $5.4-$5.7 billion Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia early next year.

That comment follows a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to issue a new Biological Opinion on Sept. 4, which the project needs to resume construction.

Mountain Valley is one of several U.S. oil and gas pipelines delayed by regulatory and legal fights with environmental and local groups that found problems with federal permits issued by the Trump administration.

In February 2018 when Equitrans started construction of the 303-mile (488-km) pipeline designed to deliver 2 billion cubic feet per day of gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale, it estimated Mountain Valley would cost about $3.5 billion and be completed by the end of 2018.

"We look forward to resolving the few remaining permitting issues, resuming forward construction," Equitrans said.

Equitrans has said it expects to receive new approvals soon from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will enable it to finish building the last 8% of the project.

Analysts at Height Capital Markets said they expect FERC will lift its stop-work order in "coming days" and the Army Corps will reauthorize the project's Nationwide Permit 12 to allow stream crossing "shortly thereafter."

"We expect environmentalists and other opponents will challenge each of these permit decisions ... within 1-2 weeks of issuance," Height Capital Markets said, noting "FERC and FWS have had nearly a year to review the permit, so it should be relatively insulated from legal challenges."

Other projects similarly held up include TC Energy Corp's $8 billion Keystone XL and Energy Transfer LP's Dakota Access crude pipelines, which are still involved in court battles.

(Reporting By Scott DiSavino Editing by Marguerita Choy)