Constitution Pipeline Is Back On After FERC Ruling

Aug 30, 2019

A controversial natural gas pipeline planned for New York is back on the table after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the project can go forward.

FERC gave new life to the proposed Constitution Pipeline this week. It would carry hydrofracked natural gas from Pennsylvania's [Marcellus] shale gas fields through New York’s Southern Tier to Schoharie County.

FERC approved the 124-mile pipeline project in 2014, contingent on a New York state permit, required under the federal Clean Water Act. Some local officials and labor groups argued the pipeline was essential, as natural gas consumption was on the rise.

Construction was to have begun in late spring of 2015 and was expected to be completed by the summer of 2016.

Environmental groups argued the pipeline would threaten public health and open the door to toxic emissions and water pollution, not to mention the possibility of explosions. They said the project would impact 277 waterways, 1,000 acres of forest and farmland and 700,000 trees. 

By November of 2015, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had not acted on essential water quality permits, and in April 2016 opted not to grant any.

Wednesday's FERC decision stated DEC waived its right to block the water permits because it waited too long to take action.

Former EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck points out that all the reasons why the DEC rejected the permit and all of the community concerns are still there, regardless of what she characterizes as "FERC's unusual position on this..."   "...which, I think, also contradicts an important court decision on this pipeline."

Speaking during a 2016 protest at the capitol in Albany, pipeline opponent and Delaware County resident Colleen McKinney contended no one in Pennsylvania, New York or New England would benefit from the line because the gas it would carry would be going to Canada via the Iroquois Pipeline.   "This gas is not for us.  These companies want to export it because natural gas prices in the rest of the world are much higher than they are here. Profit is their only concern."

Enck is sending out a renewed alarm.   "We are heading into a holiday weekend where Florida is bracing for a very strong hurricane. The Amazon rainforest is still on fire, and yet the Trump Administration continues to promote the development of fossil fuels. Putting up pipelines and compressor stations are giant, multi-million, sometimes multi-billion dollar investment by the fossil fuel industry, that if the investment is made, they are going to expect it to be operational for 40,50,60 years."

Officials with Constitution Pipeline and DEC did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A FERC official directed WAMC to this PDF document on the agency's website. (Scroll to Page 19.)