New York denies Constitution pipeline permit

OREANDA-NEWS. April 25, 2016. New York regulators today denied a key permit that Williams Company needed to build its proposed Constitution pipeline that would transport natural gas from northeast Pennsylvania into upstate New York.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) denial of a water quality permit for the Constitution pipeline deals a major setback to the proposed 628mn cf/d (18mn m?/d) capacity project. The pipeline would transport gas produced from the Marcellus shale into higher-priced markets in New England and New York.

The New York DEC said it was denying the water permit because the pipeline application failed to address "significant water quality impacts" that could occur from the project. The state agency said the pipeline would have affected 251 streams in the state, with construction having potentially "profound" effects on habitat, erosion and wildlife.

Williams did not respond for comment.

Williams began the regulatory process to build the Constitution pipeline in 2012. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a certificate approving the project in late 2014, but it has been unable to start construction because of delays with the water permit, called a section 401 water quality certification.

Local landowners and environmentalists strongly opposed construction of the 124-mile (200km) pipeline. Landowners worried about how construction of the pipeline and its right of way would affect streams and forests. Environmentalists have launched large campaigns to block construction of new pipelines, in part out of concern that they increase natural gas production and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions.

The environmental group the Sierra Club said the pipeline was contrary to ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets set by New York governor Andrew Cuomo's (D) and could have paved a way for the approval of other projects. The New York DEC denied the permit on 22 April, which is Earth Day.

"Cuomo's leadership could inspire a domino effect of related pipeline rejections as other states begin to put the protection of water and our climate before flawed energy projects that do not serve the public interest," said Roger Downs, conservation director for the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Oil and gas industry trade group the American Petroleum Institute (API) criticized the denial of the pipeline as a political move that would hurt New York consumers and block good-paying jobs in the region.

"The Cuomo administration's decision to reject permits for the Constitution Pipeline is another example of politics at its worst," said API executive director for market development Marty Durbin. "This decision will cost the state thousands of jobs and is an assault on families and businesses."

Williams last month said it was delaying its projected in-service date for the pipeline by nearly a year, until the second quarter of 2017. The company attributed this delay to environmental conditions imposed by the FERC.