Constitution Pipeline appeals adverse permit decision by New York

Constitution Pipeline Co. LLC said May 16 that it has appealed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYSDEC) refusal to grant the company’s 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 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity which was issued to the company in December 2014.

Also on May 16, the company 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.

Said the project sponsors in a joint statement: “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 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.”

The project sponsors added: “We would like to express our appreciation to the many project supporters in New York who have expressed disappointment in the state’s decision, which blocks millions of northeastern consumers from accessing lower-cost energy while ultimately slowing the region’s capabilities in transitioning from coal and fuel oil to natural gas, as well as its ability to integrate more renewable energy sources into its power portfolio.”

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 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 project backers added.

In its final environmental review of the proposed Constitution Pipeline, FERC concluded that environmental impacts would be reduced to “less than significant levels” with the implementation of proposed mitigation measures by the company and recommendations by FERC.

Constitution Pipeline is owned by subsidiaries of Williams Partners LP (NYSE: WPZ), Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (NYSE: COG), Piedmont Natural Gas (NYSE: PNY), and WGL Holdings (NYSE: WGL). The 125-mile pipeline project is proposed to connect domestic natural gas production in northeastern Pennsylvania with northeastern markets during the second half of 2017. Additional information about the Constitution Pipeline can be found at www.constitutionpipeline.com.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.