Constitution Pipeline Co. LLC is appealing a New York state agency’s decision to block a 125-mile natural gas pipeline that was already granted federal approval. The proposed pipeline project would connect natural gas production in Pennsylvania to northeastern markets during the second half of 2017.
The Constitution Pipeline is designed with a capacity to transport 650 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of natural gas — enough to serve approximately 3 million homes. The 30-in. pipeline will extend from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, to the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems in Schoharie County, New York. The project is owned by subsidiaries of Williams Partners LP, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas Co. Inc. and WGL Holdings Inc.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued the pipeline a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity in December 2014. However, on April 22—Earth Day—Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration announced that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYSDEC) had refused state permitting for the project.
The project stakeholders announced May 16 that Constitution Pipeline has appealed the NYSDEC’s refusal to grant its request for a Section 401 Water Quality Certification under the Clean Water Act. The appeal was filed with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and contends, among other things, that the refusal is arbitrary and capricious and constitutes an impermissible challenge to the FERC certificate.
The company also filed an action with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York seeking a declaration that the State of New York’s authority to exercise permitting jurisdiction over certain other environmental matters is preempted by federal law.
“Upon its review of the evidence, we believe the court will agree that this permit denial was arbitrary and unjustified and improperly relies on the same failed arguments that the NYSDEC made during the FERC certificate proceeding regarding the pipeline route and stream crossings,” the project sponsors said in a joint statement released May 16. “The NYSDEC’s allegation that it did not receive the necessary information is inaccurate as demonstrated by extensive and comprehensive technical materials submitted by Constitution for the record. We believe this allegation was intended to distract stakeholders from the application of a fair technical and regulatory review of the merits of Constitution’s application for a water quality certification. We are ultimately seeking to have the court overturn this veiled attempt by the state to usurp the federal government’s authority and essentially ‘veto’ a FERC-certificated energy infrastructure project.”
Denial of the 401 Water Quality Certification by NYSDEC further delays the potential for Constitution Pipeline to help facilitate local natural gas service to homes and businesses in Southern New York by Leatherstocking Gas Co. LLC, the project stakeholders added. The permit denial will also delay about 2,400 direct and indirect jobs that would be created during pipeline construction, generating $130 million in labor income for the region. The decision could also cost local governments approximately $13 million in annual property tax revenue.