New York regulators urged to approve natgas project

OREANDA-NEWS. September 23, 2016. A natural gas industry trade group is urging New York state regulators to approve permits for a Dominion Transmission pipeline expansion project that the group said has been stuck in limbo for two years.

The Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) wrote to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) this month, telling it to act promptly and approve pending state air facility permits for Dominion's New Market project, which was approved by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in April.

A growing number of pipeline expansion projects have been proposed in the northeast in recent years amid prolific production growth from the Marcellus and Utica shales. But some of those projects have met with regulatory headwinds. Earlier this year the New York DEC denied the Constitution pipeline a key water quality permit despite it being approved by FERC, resulting in lawsuits and delays for the proposed 124-mile (200km), 628mn cf/d (17mn m?/d) line.

Dominion's New Market project would build two new compressor stations and improve a third, adding 33,000hp of compression to Dominion's existing interstate pipeline transmission system. The expansion would boost natural gas deliveries by 108mn cf/d into the Iroquois Gas Transmission system and to the Schenectady and Albany area. The pipeline originally planned to begin construction this summer and be in service in November.

But Dominion's "air permits have now been pending before the DEC for more than two years," preventing the pipeline from beginning construction, NGSA's letter to the DEC said.

The DEC provided notice of a complete application from Dominion in July, setting off a comment period ending in early August. But that comment period was later extended through last week, as well as expanded to include three public hearings. A notice from the DEC said it will determine whether any issues were raised in the public comments and hearings that warrant an additional hearing.

The project is fully subscribed at both delivery points, and National Grid subsidiaries have urged its approval. But some government groups have voiced concerns about the project in the past. The Madison County Department of Health commented to FERC in 2014 on its concerns about health risks from air contaminants and station emissions, prompting Dominion to hire an environmental consultant to conduct research on the matter. Dominion said that consultant ultimately found flaws and weaknesses in the county's findings. And FERC's October 2015 environmental assessment of the project noted that environmental effects associated with the project could be reasonably avoided, minimized and mitigated.

The New Markets project is not the only expansion NGSA is pressuring DEC on. Earlier this year the group filed an amicus brief supporting the Constitution pipeline in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, challenging the DEC's denial of that project's water permit.

Last week the group also filed in the Second Circuit court as intervenors in a case where Catskill Mountainkeeper and other environmentalist groups are challenging FERC's review of Constitution.