A federal appeals court on Tuesday denied a petition by environmental groups seeking to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline that would traverse three counties in the heart of Marcellus Shale country in northern Pennsylvania.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said FERC “properly discharged its responsibilities under NEPA [the National Environmental Policy Act]” when it approved plans by the Central New York Oil and Gas Co. (CNYOG) to build the MARC I Hub Line Project, a 39-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline and related facilities to run through Bradford, Sullivan and Lycoming counties (see Shale Daily, June 2, 2011).

“We view this as an important judicial rebuff of environmentalists’ efforts to hinder oil and natural gas development by attacking energy infrastructure buildout,” Christine Tezak, an analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co., said Tuesday. “[This is] a positive for upstream and midstream companies…and subsidiaries.”

Three environmental groups — Coalition for Responsible Growth and Resource Conservation, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability and the Sierra Club — had argued that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had incorrectly concluded that an environmental impact statement wasn’t needed for the project and that its impact analysis was inadequate (see Shale Daily, Nov. 29, 2011).

“We disagree,” said Ralph Winter, Denny Chin and Christopher Droney, judges in the case Coalition v. FERC (No. 12-566-ag). “FERC’s analysis of the development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves was sufficient. FERC included a short discussion of Marcellus Shale development in the EA [environmental assessment], and FERC reasonably concluded that the impacts of that development are not sufficiently causally related to the project to warrant a more in-depth analysis.

“In addition, FERC’s discussion of the incremental effects of the project on forests and migratory birds was sufficient. FERC addressed both issues in the EA and has required [CNYOG] to take concrete steps to address environmental concerns raised by petitioners and others.”

Upon completion, the MARC I project would have about 550,000 Dth/d of firm capacity. The transmission line would connect to Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s Line 300 and Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line’s Leidy Line, as well as the existing Stagecoach laterals that tie in with Millennium Pipeline. The project would clear the way for gas produced in the northeastern Pennsylvania counties to be stored at CNYOG’s Stagecoach Gas Storage facility near Oswego, NY.