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Enviros Seek to Block Transco's Leidy Southeast Expansion

A coalition of environmental groups led by the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club has called on FERC to reject Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC's (Transco) Leidy Southeast Expansion project, saying there is no homegrown demand for it.

The pipeline ostensibly has been planned to serve the growing needs of local distribution companies along the Atlantic Seaboard by December 2015, but the environmentalists say it will go to supply export markets. Transco said it expects to submit a certificate application for the project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by the end of the year.

Transco has executed agreements with six shippers that collectively fully subscribe the project on a long-term basis. These shippers are Anadarko Energy Services Company (50,000 dt/d), MMGS Inc. (50,000 dt/d), Piedmont Natural Gas Company, Inc (100,000 dt/d), Public Service Company of North Carolina, Inc (100,000 dt/d), South Carolina Electric & Gas Company (34,000 dt/d), and Washington Gas Light Company (135,000 dt/d). The binding commitments from these shippers provide sufficient market support to proceed with the proposed expansion.

After conducting a thorough environmental impact statement (EIS), "it will be clear the environmental consequences and safety concerns posed by this project are not a public convenience or necessity, but rather [are] a substantial risk to future generations," the petition said. "Please conduct a full EIS and deny this project a certificate of public convenience and necessity," the environmental groups asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [PF13-5].

The Leidy Southeast Expansion is designed to increase the Transco pipeline's capacity by 525,000 Dth/d of natural gas (enough to serve about 2 million homes). It would involve the construction of approximately 30 miles of additional looping, in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, in addition to modifying some existing pipeline facilities.

"This project is being driven by suppliers in the Marcellus Shale region pushing to move their oversupply of gas obtained through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to southern markets. There are currently 15 export facilities proposed along the Gulf Coast that this expansion project could connect to, sending gas out of the United States," the group said. Besides the Sierra Club, others signing onto the FERC petition are the Food and Water Watch, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association and Raritan Headwaters Association.

The environmental groups contend that the expansion is unnecessary. They point out that while drilling in the Marcellus Shale is steadily increasing, demand by industrial, commercial and residential customers has remained flat. "There is no firm customer demand for this increased supply.

"However, Transco in June posted on its website that it has executed binding precedent agreements with seven shippers for the entire firm transportation capacity on the Leidy Southeast Project on a long-term basis.

In addition to examining the environmental impacts in the EIS, the environmental coalition said that "the FERC must examine the productivity of wells in the Marcellus Shale to determine what amount of expanded pipeline capacity is truly needed to serve the region. Currently, their full production potential is unknown, making investing in infrastructure projects risky."

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