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FERC Urges Court to Reject NJ Townships' Request to Overturn OK of Garden State Expansion

FERC has asked a federal appeals court to reject an attempt by two New Jersey townships to overturn its approval of Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC's (Transco) Garden State Expansion project, the first phase of which is expected to be placed into service early next month.

In a 103-page brief filed last week in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said that it had satisfied all of its obligations to review the project [CP15-89] under the Natural Gas Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. It urged the Philadelphia court to deny a petition by Bordentown and Chesterfield townships to reverse its decision to issue a certificate of convenience for the project in April 2016.

"The Commission seriously considered and carefully addressed numerous environmental issues and all environmental objections," FERC said, adding that it had also "reasonably addressed groundwater impacts, affirming that the expansion should not harm nearby wells or springs, but nonetheless preventing construction until Transco identified all relevant wells. The agency then required additional mitigation measures to further reduce temporary and minor groundwater impacts...

"Balancing the need to meet continuing demand for domestic natural gas with potential adverse impacts on landowners and surrounding communities is a challenging task, but one ultimately entrusted to the Commission by Congress. Here, the Commission satisfied all of its statutory responsibilities in conditionally approving the Garden State Expansion."

The Garden State Expansion would provide up to 180,000 Dth/d of incremental firm capacity to a new delivery point on Transco's existing Trenton Woodbury Lateral pipeline. The lateral runs off Transco's mainline from Mercer County to Burlington County, both in New Jersey. FERC said New Jersey Natural Gas Co. has contracted to use all of the project's capacity "to fix local supply disruptions caused by [Hurricane] Sandy" from 2012.

Both Bordentown and Chesterfield townships are located in Burlington County.

Williams Partners LP first announced the project in July 2014. At the time Williams received the FERC certificate, it said the $116 million expansion would come online in two phases -- the first phase was to provide 20,000 Dth/d of capacity by a targeted in-service date of Nov. 1, 2016, while the remaining 160,000 Dth/d was to come online by August 2017.

A spokesperson for Williams told NGI on Tuesday that the company is currently wrapping up construction of the first phase of the project, and hopes to place it into service in early September. The second phase is expected to be placed into service in 2Q2018.

The case is Townships of Bordentown and Chesterfield, NJ v. FERC [No. 17-1047].

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