Though there appear to be attempts in Washington D.C. to undo environmental protections and grant FERC more power through proposed legislation and actions of the EPA and Department of the Interior, there have been some encouraging developments in the courts and with state agencies that have supported protections of air and water quality.
FERC’S ANALYSIS OF GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS WAS FOUND TO
BE INADEQUATE SINCE IT DID NOT CONSIDER EMISSIONS FROM THE PIPELINE TO THE END USE OF THE GAS
August 21, 2017 – Sierra Club v. FERC, Case No. 16-1329
A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had not properly analyzed the effects of burning natural gas on climate change before approving the pipeline. They ruled that FERC must consider a pipeline’s cumulative downstream greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of the natural gas transported by the pipeline as part of its environmental review. This ruling vacated and remanded a 2016 Order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that had authorized construction and operation of the Southeast Market Pipelines Project (Project) by granting Section 7 certificates to three natural gas pipelines in Alabama, Georgia and Florida that make up the Project :
- Florida Southeast Connection, LLC (Florida Southeast Connection Project
- Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC (Hillabee Expansion Project)
- Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC (Sabal Trail Project)
Docket #s CP14-554-000, CP15-16-000, CP15-17-000
NYSDEC DENIAL OF CONSTITUTION PIPELINE CWA PERMIT
WAS UPHELD BY THE SECOND CIRCUIT COURT
Constitution Pipeline (CP13-499) – NY State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Denial of Water Permit was upheld in court where, on August 18, 2017, the US Court of Appeals – 2nd Circuit concluded: “Insofar as the petition contends that the NYSDEC Decision is a nullity on the ground that it was untimely, the petition is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction; to the extent that the petition challenges the NYSDEC Decision on the merits, the petition is denied.” Note: FERC approved the Constitution Pipeline project in 2014.
NJDEP DENIED PENNEAST PIPELINE’S
CLEAN WATER ACT (CWA) PERMIT
6/28/17: Noting that the Clean Water Act (CWA 401 and 404) permit applications were very incomplete for PennEast, the NJDEP denied their applications for permits. PennEast (CP15-558) could not complete the surveys needed for their permit applications because over 65% of NJ’s landowners did not allow them onto their property. However, if PennEast receives a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from FERC, they will then have the authority to gain access to properties for the surveying needed for these permits, and they will likely then reapply for the CWA 401 and 404 permits.
NJ’S RATE COUNCIL DECLARED THAT THERE IS NO NEED
FOR BUILDING THE PENNEAST PIPELINE
& THE REQUESTED RATE OF RETURN WAS EXCESSIVE
is in 9/12/16 in FERC Accession No. 20160912-6003(31683531)
NYSDEC DENIED A WATER PERMIT, BUT FERC DECIDED THAT NYSDEC “WAIVED” THEIR RIGHT TO ISSUE OR DENY A PERMIT SINCE THE DECISION WAS OVER A YEAR AFTER THE INITIAL APPLICATION
On 8/30/17, the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation conditionally denied Section 401 Water Quality Certification stream crossing permits for Millennium’s proposed 7.8 mile Valley Lateral pipeline project (C)P16-17). Then, at a 9/17/17 FERC hearing, it was “clarified” that the one-year period to review an application for the Water Quality Certificate started with “receipt” of application – not after determining it was “complete”.
WEST VIRGINIA REVOKES CWA 401 PERMIT IN WAKE OF HURRICANES HARVEY AND IRMA & WILL NOW REVIEW IT MORE THOROUGHLY UNDER WV’s STREAM ANTI-DEGRADATION POLICY
Sept. 7, 2017 – WVDEC revoked the Section 401 Water Quality Certification that they issued for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project (March 2017 & reaffirmed May 2017) one day before they would have needed to defend this in Court. (FERC Docket No. CP16-10). This came after a lawsuit by Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of plaintiffs who argued the DEP’s analysis of the project’s effect on water quality in West Virginia was woefully incomplete.
October 10/11, 2017: 4th Circuit sent the WQ permit back to WVDEP for further review.
NORTH CAROLINA DEQ DELAYS DECISION ON
WATER QUALITY PERMIT
Sept. 14, 2017 – The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality issued notice to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that the project “involves numerous stream crossings that have the potential to affect downstream water quality both temporarily during construction and permanently.” (CP15-554) The department noted that “more site-specific detail is necessary to ensure that downstream water quality is protected.” The Governor delayed the Water Quality permit decision until December.