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Millennium Gets New York WQC for Eastern System Upgrade, Awaits FERC Certificate

Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC has urged FERC to promptly issue a certificate order for its Eastern System Upgrade (ESU) project, saying it has all the required permits, including those from New York, with which it needs to proceed.

Just days before the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied Millennium’s Valley Lateral project a Section 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC) under the U.S. Clean Water Act last month, it issued a WQC and other permits for the ESU project.

ESU would provide 223,000 Dth/d of firm transportation service. It is designed to deliver gas supplies to constrained local utilities in the Northeast, including those in New England.

“Unlike Millennium’s proposed Valley Lateral project, which would be built solely to serve a new energy facility, the purpose of the ESU project is to ensure that existing customer demand is met along Millennium’s existing system,” said DEC spokeswoman Erica Ringewald. “The ESU pipeline would run primarily within or adjacent to existing rights-of-way.”

The Valley Lateral would run about eight miles in Orange County, NY, to serve a natural gas-fired power plant under construction. DEC denied the pipeline a WQC because it said applicable federal law changed during the course of its review, and as a result, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission failed to conduct a complete environmental review for the project.  The agency cited an Aug. 22 opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The court agreed with the Sierra Club that FERC’s environmental impact statement for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project failed to adequately consider the impact of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In its request for a certificate of public convenience and necessity filed on Sept. 5, Millennium said late comments from environmental groups that argue the project’s environmental assessment (EA) does not satisfy the DC Circuit Court’s recent opinion should be ignored. The company said that unlike the Southeast Market Pipelines Project, primarily designed to serve gas-fired power plants in Florida, the ESU would deliver gas through the interstate pipeline grid for various end-uses.

Millennium said the project’s EA, which was issued by FERC in March, adequately estimates the direct and indirect GHG emissions associated with the upgrade [CP16-486]. The ESU project would include nearly eight miles of pipeline looping, one new compressor station, the modification of an existing compressor station and other minor facility modifications.

Millennium joins a growing list of companies waiting for certificate approvals or other action at FERC, which only recently restored the quorum it needs to vote on important projects and rules. 

When they learned on Wednesday that the DEC had issued a WQC for the ESU project, environmental organizations derided the decision.

“How DEC reached the conclusion that it should deny the Valley Lateral and approve ESU, despite all the evidence of segmentation and tremendous harm to community health, environmental health and our local economies is beyond comprehension,” said the Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s leader Maya van Rossum.

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