We’re looking back at some of the stories that dominated 2015 this week — especially the proposed construction of natural gas pipelines. The building of two controversial pipelines could be held up for a year if environmental approvals fail to materialize on time.
Birds may impact the laying of pipeline across New York: land and tree-clearing in advance of building the conduits must take place during the winter, lest fowl migration patterns be disrupted. Kinder-Morgan Vice President Allen Fore: "Typically on pipeline projects, as part of the environmental review, there are limitations on tree clearing, per the Migratory Bird Act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service."
Both the $5 billion Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline and the $680 million Constitution pipeline project are under the gun: the pipelines could be put on hold if tree clearing can't be completed by spring.
The projects are on pause until permits from New York's Department of Environmental Conservation are issued. Spokesman Chris Stockton says Constitution is sitting tight, waiting for the documents to arrive. "It's very critical that we receive the permits that are outstanding from the New York DEC as soon as possible. We're reaching the point now in the project where we absolutely need to begin very soon in order to be able to meet our construction and service dates of the end of 2016, and the reason that's so important is because we have to begin tree clearing and we have to finish that up before the spring because of the bird migration pattern. With each day and with each week that passes, it's gonna be more and more difficult for us to reach that in-service date. We really need to receive those outstanding permits as soon as possible. We feel like we've been working with the New York DEC for several years now, and we provided everything we need in order for them to process those permits, outstanding permits, as soon as possible."
Constitution's 30-inch underground pipeline would extend from Susquehanna County, PA., to the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems in Schoharie County, NY. Ideally, tree-clearing would be finished by April.
Stockton remains confident Constitution can meet its in-service date in late 2016 for the 124-mile conduit, but only if approval comes by year's end.
Kinder-Morgan depends on regulatory approvals to meet their its in-service date of winter 2018 for the 400-mile long pipeline project that would move fracked natural gas across the Northeast. "Whenever we plan projects we do anticipate those restrictions on tree-clearing and timetables for that, and that's built-in to our schedules, and our environmental contractors and consultants who are very familiar with this process on a federal level as well as the state level, have been working to coordinate and build that into our existing schedule."
Politico reports a senior DEC official said that the state could lose its authority to oversee pipelines if it improperly withholds approvals. Responding to a request for comment, the DEC did have any reaction or other information in time for broadcast.