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Eastern System Upgrade Protested to Slow NatGas Infrastructure

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) is wasting no time challenging Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC’s Eastern System Upgrade (ESU) project, filing both at FERC for a rehearing authorizing the project and in federal court to appeal New York state permits.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued the project certificate last week so Millennium could build and operate the expansion. DRN has asked FERC for a stay of construction activity until a decision can be made on its rehearing request.

DRN wants the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to review the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) September decision to issue a water quality certification (WQC) and other permits for ESU. Specifically, DRN is challenging the pollutant discharge elimination system general permit, which it wants thrown out. The organization’s petition was short on details, however, and did not include arguments for review.

“Our state authorizations for this project were granted after a great deal of work and cooperation with the NYSDEC,” Millennium spokesperson Michelle Hook said. “The Delaware Riverkeeper has not yet provided us with any basis for their appeal to the Second Circuit of Millennium’s coverage under this state permit.”

In its challenge before FERC, the environmental groups claim the Commission violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to properly evaluate the project’s environmental impacts. DRN said in its rehearing request that the project’s environmental assessment (EA) is “deficient.” FERC issued the certificate last week, saying as the EA did, that ESU does not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, and therefore, that an environmental impact statement is not required.

DRN said ESU poses a risk to the environment because it would be part of Millennium’s broader 240-mile system in New York and other projects like the Valley Lateral and future expansions. The Valley Lateral project would serve a natural gas-fired power plant under construction in the state. While New York denied the Valley Lateral project’s WQC over potential environmental impacts, FERC reversed that decision and cleared the lateral to move forward.

New York is currently fighting that decision in court. The two new legal challenges, DRN said, further embroil Millennium in such proceedings.

The DRN’s filings are the latest in a series of similar legal challenges against Atlantic Sunrise, Atlantic Bridge, Nexus Gas Transmission and other pipeline projects as environmental groups have increasingly turned their attention to slowing down natural gas infrastructure projects both at the state and federal levels.

ESU would include building about eight miles of 30- and 36-inch diameter pipeline looping in Orange County, NY, and a new compressor station with 22,400 hp in Sullivan County, NY, to add 223,000 Dth/d of firm transportation service to local distribution companies and municipalities.

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