Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

New York Blocks Start-Up of Empire Tioga County Extension

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has called on FERC to withhold approval for Empire Pipeline Inc. to begin service on its Tioga County Extension until it has complied with state soil disturbance and stabilization requirements.

Empire is awaiting a response from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to start up the facilities, which would transport Marcellus Shale production in Pennsylvania to the U.S.-Canadian border (see Shale Daily, Oct. 27).

Earlier this month, NYSDEC said it issued a notice of violation (NOV) to Empire for allegedly violating its state pollution discharge elimination system permit (SPDES). "NYSDEC issued the NOV because soil disturbance activities at the project have not proceeded in compliance with the terms and conditions of the SPDES permit and Empire has failed to implement necessary temporary and/or permanent soil stabilization measures within seven days of ceasing soil disturbance activities as required by NYSDEC's [letter]" last June, the state regulator said.

"Empire also has not provided biweekly revisions, plans and construction site Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) documentation to NYSDEC for inspection, and has failed to implement third-party monitoring of the project site. NYSDEC staff have documented through visual observations and inspection that stabilization and erosion control measures have not been implemented as designed and that the measures currently in use are not adequate to ensure compliance with the provisions of the SWPPP and SPDES permit."

NYSDEC said it was requiring Empire to complete the installation of all erosion and sediment control measures by Friday (Oct. 28). By the following Friday (Nov. 4), Empire must stabilize all disturbed areas in accordance with SWPPP requirements. Moreover, it has directed Empire to retain a qualified inspector to inspect all erosion and sediment control measures.

Until all of the compliance issues have been corrected, the NYSDEC has urged the FERC to withhold its approval of Empire's request to begin service on its Tioga County Extension.

In a recent letter to the Commission, Empire said that while the 15-mile Tioga County Extension and associated interconnections would not be ready for commercial service until mid-November, the other components of the project (i.e., the 1.36-mile lift-and-lay segment near Victor, NY; the interconnection with Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. in Hopewell, NY; and the repiping at the Oakfield Compressor Station and the old and new Victor stations) are expected to be ready for service on Tuesday (Nov. 1) [CP10-493].

The facilities that Empire is seeking permission to place into service would allow it to reverse flow on its system and would permit it to receive up to 350,000 Dth/d of Marcellus Shale production in Tioga County, PA, and transport that gas to the facilities of TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. at Chippawa, ON.

Empire said it has entered into precedent agreements for firm transportation service for the entire capacity of the project for an initial term of 10 years. The cost of the Tioga extension has been estimated at $46.7 million. FERC approved Empire's request for a predetermination that it may roll the costs of the expansion project into its existing Empire Connector rates in its next Section 4 rate proceeding.

The Tioga County Extension and other projects due to come online in the next month are expected to provide the Marcellus producers with nearly 1.0 Bcf/d of increased takeaway capacity, and natural gas pipeline takeaway capacity will more than double its current level by 2013, according to Bentek Energy LLC.

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