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By Rebecca Kern
Millennium Pipeline Co.'s proposed 7.8-mile natural gas pipeline in southeast New York state gained a nudge of support from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which overruled the state’s denial of water permit rights.
FERC issued a waiver Sept. 15 that overrides an Aug. 30 decision from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) that denied water permit rights for the Valley Lateral Project in Orange County, N.Y. The federal regulator concluded the New York department failed to act on a water permit within the one-year statutory deadline set by the Clean Water Act.
While the NYSDEC said it is still reviewing the decision and is considering all legal options, an appeal is likely, analysts say. But with the ruling in its favor, the Millennium Pipeline Co. plans to work with FERC to move forward on the pipeline.
“It is near certain” that the NYSDEC will appeal this waiver decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, analyst James Lucier, a managing director at Capital Alpha, said in Sept. 15 analyst note.
The NYSDEC said it denied the water rights permit in August because FERC failed to consider or quantify the downstream greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of the natural gas transported by the project.
“This is a positive step forward for what is an important project for New York consumers,” Michelle Hook, a Millennium spokeswoman, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 15.
“That said, we still want to cooperate fully with the NYSDEC on all issues related to water and will hold to our agreement to accommodate their requests on water crossings and wetlands,” Hook added. The company reached an agreement in June 2016 to meet NYSDC’s requests to construct the pipeline safely around bodies of water, she said.
Millennium now plans to file for a notice to proceed with construction with FERC in the coming days, she said. However, due to existing environmental restrictions, the company couldn’t start building before November even if FERC approved its request to proceed, she said.
Meanwhile, the Sierra Club’s Roger Downs, the environmental group’s Atlantic chapter director, raised concerns that FERC is overruling New York state’s clean water rights.
“States unquestionably have the authority to rule whether a dirty, dangerous fracked gas pipeline violates clean water laws, and nowhere is FERC granted the right to override that authority,” he said in a Sept. 15 statement.
The pipeline would supply gas to the CPV Valley Energy Center, a natural-gas electric generation facility under construction in Wawayanda, N.Y., by Competitive Power Ventures Inc.
The Sierra Club has received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg L.P. Bloomberg BNA is an affiliate of Bloomberg L.P.
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