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FERC OK's Limited Tree Felling in Pennsylvania for Constitution Pipeline

FERC has given Constitution Pipeline Co. LLC permission to begin cutting trees in Pennsylvania for its $683 million natural gas pipeline -- which would transport gas from the Marcellus Shale to markets in the northeast -- but withheld permission for the clearing of trees in neighboring New York State.

In a letter Friday [CP13-499], the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted Constitution permission to begin non-mechanical tree felling in Pennsylvania, and approved a list of workspace variances in Pennsylvania, except at six locations where regulators said Constitution lacked justification for impacting adjacent forest (see Shale DailyApril 30, 2015).

Constitution is also barred from cutting trees within 100 feet of each exclusion area listed on supplemental information the company submitted to FERC on Jan. 14. The tree felling exclusion location list is not included in FERC documents because it is classified as privileged information.

Constitution is owned by subsidiaries of Williams Partners LP, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas Co. Inc. and WGL Holdings Inc. The approximately 124-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline will transport Marcellus gas produced in northeast Pennsylvania with existing transmission pipelines in Schoharie County, NY, where it would connect with two existing interstate pipelines: Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline. It would provide 650,000 Dth/d of takeaway capacity.

Constitution and Leatherstocking Gas Co. LLC have also announced plans to install four delivery taps along the proposed pipeline's route (see Shale DailyMarch 19, 2014).

In a statement Friday, the pipeline's backers said that although FERC "has not yet authorized tree felling in New York, we are optimistic that authorization will come in order for the project to meet its 2016 in-service commitment while complying with the environmental conditions of the FERC order and the FWS [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] biological opinion."

The companies said approximately one-quarter of the trees needed to be cleared for the pipeline are in Pennsylvania, with the remainder in New York. Constitution spokesman Chris Stockton told NGI's Shale Daily on Monday that limited tree felling would begin in Pennsylvania once its contractors and crews received training. Stockton said the Constitution hoped to finish the tree felling before March 31, to avoid impacting migratory birds and the Northern long-eared bat.

"It's imperative that we start the tree felling work now in order to keep the project on schedule and meet our commitment to our customers to have the project in service by the end 4Q2016," Stockton said.

Constitution said the tree felling will be subject to third party environmental monitoring. It has also agreed to "voluntarily provide $8.6 million in conservation funding for the restoration and preservation of migratory bird habitats as a conservation measure."

The pipeline will originate in Susquehanna County, PA, then cross into New York and traverse Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie counties.

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