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Constitution Pipeline Denied FERC Rehearing

In still another setback for Constitution Pipeline Co. LLC, FERC has rejected the company's request for a rehearing of a decision earlier this year in which the Commission found that New York regulators did not waive their authority by failing to issue a water quality certification (WQC) within a reasonable period of time.

The 125-mile pipeline would carry Marcellus Shale gas from Susquehanna County, PA, interconnecting with the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems in Schoharie County, NY.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found in January that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) did not fail to act within the one-year timeframe required under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) to issue a section 401 WQC [CP18-5]. Constitution had argued that the DEC took too long to issue the permit.

Constitution received a FERC certificate in December 2014 for its natural gas project. It initially filed for a WQC in August 2013, but withdrew and resubmitted its application twice, which DEC argued reset the one-year deadline it had to make a decision each time. Following about three years of review, the DEC ultimately denied the pipeline’s WQC.

In an order issued Thursday, commissioners turned away Constitution's argument that FERC "erred by adopting a one-year-rule" and is obligated by the CWA to make case-by-case determinations of the "reasonable period of time" in which certifying agencies must act on applications for a WQC.

FERC found that Constitution had given DEC new deadlines "by withdrawing its applications before a year had passed and by presenting New York DEC with new applications."

Last month, Constitution said New York's denial of a water permit had killed any chance of the pipeline project meeting it's scheduled Dec. 2, 2018 construction deadline, and it asked for a two-year extension.

Constitution filed at FERC five years ago, and received a certificate authorizing the project in 2014. Besides Williams, the project is backed by Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas Co. Inc. and WGL Holdings Inc.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition filed by Constitution to challenge New York's regulatory authority and let stand an appeals court ruling that upheld the state's decision to deny the project a WQC.

The DEC denial was mainly related to a disagreement over trenchless crossings and the agency's contention that it didn't have enough information to determine the project’s environmental impact.

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