The expansion of natural gas infrastructure along the East Coast has created a seemingly endless queue of new pipeline battles. Max Phillips/Beyond Coal and Gas/Flickr

The expansion of natural gas infrastructure along the East Coast has created a seemingly endless queue of new pipeline battles involving landowners, environmentalists, states and the federal government.

Some of the proposed pipelines have similar names. A handful have similar routes. Many have been in the news for years, while others seem to have sprung from nowhere. They’re all accompanied by a nonstop stream of procedural and legal drama.

Even the most astute pipeline watchers have trouble keeping it all straight. Was it Atlantic Coast or Atlantic Sunrise that just got approved? Wait, how many projects are on hold in New York? And aren’t there nuns protesting somewhere?

Here’s a breakdown of some of the most interesting projects to help you avoid getting your wires — er, pipelines — crossed.

Constitution

Length: 126 miles
Route: Northeast Pennsylvania to central New York
Status: Company wants FERC to waive a state-issued water permit

The fate of this project might not just be a matter of laws and regulations; it may also be a battle of political wills. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has held up a number of high-profile gas projects, including the Constitution pipeline. For its part, Williams Cos. Inc., the lead sponsor of the project, is banking on favorable treatment by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

It all began early last year, when New York regulators denied Constitution a water permit required by the Clean Water Act. Williams challenged that decision in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court let New York’s decision stand, but it declined to rule on a critical issue Williams had asked about: whether New York had ceded that authority to the feds by taking too long to review the project.

Now Williams is asking FERC to find “waiver” so that it can start construction on the nearly $700 million project. CEO Alan Armstrong has said the company is pressing FERC and the Trump administration to overrule New York, and lobbying records confirm that representatives for Williams have held meetings with the White House and federal agencies.

For now, Williams doesn’t see the pipeline going online before 2019. “Plenty of fight left in this dog, and I think we’re well-positioned for it,” Armstrong told analysts this month. “But we’ve got — we will have a fight on our hands, I suspect.”

Northern Access

Length: 99 miles and associated infrastructure
Route: Northwest Pennsylvania to western New York
Status: Company appealing New York permit denial at 2nd Circuit, at FERC and in state court

National Fuel Gas Co., the lead sponsor of the Northern Access project, launched a bevy of legal challenges after New York regulators denied its water permit this year. But even the company’s president and CEO, Ronald Tanski, has conceded that “it’s anyone’s guess when we might get an answer.”

The roughly half-billion-dollar project would beef up the pipelines and other infrastructure that send gas across the Pennsylvania border into the Buffalo area. It had approvals from FERC and Pennsylvania regulators, but the April decision by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation left it one permit shy.

National Fuel Gas is challenging New York’s denial in the 2nd Circuit, and it’s also asking FERC to declare state authority “waived.” But as Tanski has acknowledged to investors, some of the pivotal legal questions are getting worked out in other cases, such as the Valley Lateral project in New York. Northern Access has no official service date.

Read more:

E&E News – Ellen M. GilmerJenny Mandel and Saqib Rahim, E&E News reporters – 11.27.2017

Posted by: Nelson Bailey

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