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April 25 — The four companies that own Constitution Pipeline Co. LLC may challenge New York's decision to deny a permit for the gas pipeline project, pledging April 25 to “pursue all available options” to fight the state decision.
The challenge may include an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Christopher L. Stockton, a spokesman for the company, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied a water quality certification permit for the project April 22, saying the project would have an adverse impact on some 251 streams and would disturb wetlands. It also said the project application was incomplete and failed to address a number of concerns (79 DEN A-14, 4/25/16).
The state decision is being viewed in the context of its 2015 ban on fracking of natural gas. Supporters of the pipeline said the decision was political, while environmental groups and opponents applauded it for helping to move the state away from its dependence on fossil fuels.
Constitution has a number of options if it wants to move forward with the project, including litigation. It may also re-submit an application or request a hearing with the DEC within 30 days to discuss the permit denial.
The 125-mile pipeline is being proposed by Williams Partners LP., Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas Co. and WGL Holdings Inc. It would connect natural gas production in northeastern Pennsylvania with northeastern markets, including the southern tier of New York.
The project, which received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in December 2014, needs a number of permits from New York, including water quality certification under the Clean Water Act.
DEC, in denying certification, said the project could have a “profound” impact, including “loss of available water body habitat, changes in thermal conditions, increased erosion and creation of stream instability and turbidity.”
It said, despite the fact that the application was updated numerous times, Constitution “has not supplied sufficient information for the Department to be reasonably assured that the State's water quality standards would be met during construction and operation of the proposed pipeline.”
“As a result, the Department cannot be assured that the aforementioned adverse impacts to water quality and associated resources will be avoided or adequately minimized and mitigated so as not to materially interfere with or jeopardize the best usages of affected water bodies,” DEC said.
Constitution vigorously refuted the state's reasons for denial in a statement, saying it worked closely with the state for three years and voluntarily agreed to the state's requests to incorporate re-routes, adopt trenchless construction methodologies and to conduct trout stream restoration. It also agreed to provide funding for $18 million in wetland mitigation.
“We believe NYSDEC’s stated rationale for the denial includes flagrant misstatements and inaccurate allegations, and appears to be driven more by New York State politics than by environmental science,” the project sponsors said in a joint statement. “We worked in good faith with the NYSDEC for years, so this decision comes as a surprise and is contrary to our dialogue and collaborative effort to address concerns.”
The state decision was applauded by environmentalists and opposed by the Business Council of New York State, the American Petroleum Institute and the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, a group that supported fracking in the Southern Tier region of the state.
The coalition said the project would support 2,400 jobs, generate $130 million in income and provide $13 million in local tax revenue.
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