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Tennessee's Northeast Upgrade Needs No Additional Mitigation, FERC Says

FERC responded Thursday to a federal appeals court ruling on the Commission's handling of Tennessee Gas Pipeline's (TGP) Northeast Upgrade Project, saying in an order that no additional mitigation is required for authorization of the project.

"Based on the supplemental environmental analysis developed in response to the court's mandate, the order concludes that, when considered additively, impacts from the Northeast Upgrade Project and Tennessee's three other projects are not significant," the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said. "It also concludes that when the projects are considered cumulatively with the Northeast Upgrade Project, there are no significant cumulative impacts."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in June 2014 ruled that FERC "impermissibly segmented the environmental review" of the Northeast Upgrade Project and remanded the case to the Commission "for further consideration of segmentation and cumulative impacts" [CP11-161] (see Shale Daily June 6, 2014). FERC's environmental assessment (EA) was "deficient in its failure to include any meaningful analysis of the cumulative impacts" of what the court said was a series of projects that were interrelated and effectively constituted a major project that required a more extensive environmental review.

A TGP spokesman said Friday that the company believes FERC "completed a thorough and well-substantiated review of the environmental impacts of the projects in question. The FERC appears to have been faithful to the remand of the D.C. Circuit." 

FERC issued a certificate for the Northeast Upgrade Project, designed to expand TGP's existing 300 Line system in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to provide additional Marcellus Shale gas to Northeast markets, in 2012 (see Shale DailyMay 31, 2012). FERC rejected arguments that an environmental impact statement (EIS), rather than an EA, should have been conducted on the project due to its potential impact on the human environment. "The EA concludes, and we agree, the Northeast Upgrade Project would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. Therefore, an EIS is not required," FERC said in its 2012 order.

Environmental groups, led by Delaware Riverkeeper Network, argued that FERC violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it segmented its review of the project, giving no consideration to the project in conjunction with three other closely related Eastern Leg projects, and claimed FERC failed to provide a meaningful analysis of the cumulative impacts of the projects.

FERC argued since each project resulted in a measurable increase in the pipeline's overall capacity, it was justified in completing the NEPA analysis of the Northeast Project separately from the others.

TGP, a unit of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, placed the fully subscribed Northeast Upgrade Project in service two years ago (see Shale Daily,Nov. 1, 2013). The $500 million project boosted capacity on TGP's 300 Line system in Pennsylvania and New Jersey by 636 MMcf/d.

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