Atlantic Bridge, a project of Spectra Energy's Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline LLP (M&NE) and Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC (AGT) would not cause significant harm to the environment with proposed and recommended mitigation measures, FERC staff said in an environmental assessment (EA).
The project would facilitate south-to-north flow on the Maritimes system to provide more gas to New England and Canada's Maritime provinces and would provide "...access to the affordable Appalachian-area shale gas that is delivered into the western end of the Algonquin system," the pipelines told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [CP16-9] last fall (see Daily GPI, Oct. 23, 2015). Atlantic Bridge was announced in February 2014 (see Daily GPI, Feb. 5, 2014).
Project shippers include four local distribution companies, two manufacturing companies and a municipal utility. Under precedent agreements, shippers have primary delivery point entitlements for about 40% (26,426 Dth/d) of the incremental capacity at delivery points on Algonquin's system in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The remaining 60% (79,705 Dth/d) of capacity would be delivered to the Maritimes system at the Salem-Beverly, MA, interconnect, according to the EA.
Maritimes was issued a Presidential Permit in July 2009, which authorizes Maritimes to utilize its existing cross-border facilities to import or export natural gas between the United States and Canada. Maritimes is authorized to deliver gas into Canada, and portions of the gas associated with the project would be delivered into Canada. Moving from the Maritimes interconnect, the 79,705 Dth/d of incremental capacity plus an additional 26,574 Dth/d of existing capacity would move north through Maritimes' system.
Under Maritimes' precedent agreements, about 14,500 Dth/d of the total 106,276 Dth/d would be delivered to seven different delivery points in Maine, while 91,776 Dth/d would continue into Canada. While there are currently several proposals to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States and Canada to overseas countries, the Atlantic Bridge applicants are not constructing the project for this purpose, FERC staff said. The project customers receiving gas in Canada are industrial and commercial users within Canada, not companies involved in the export of LNG.
Staff said it received comments asking that the indirect and cumulative effects of Marcellus Shale gas development be evaluated in the Atlantic Bridge docket. As it has in the past with similar requests, FERC staff declined.
"Similar to many past projects where this issue has been raised, the Commission has previously determined that shale gas development is not caused by the proposed action and is not reasonably foreseeable to be considered an indirect impact under NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act]," staff said. "Shale development, which is regulated by the states, continues to drive the need for takeaway interstate pipeline capacity to allow the gas to reach markets. Therefore, companies are planning and building interstate transmission facilities in response to this new source of gas supply. In addition, many production facilities have already been permitted and/or constructed in the Marcellus shale region, creating a network through which natural gas may flow along various pathways to local users or the interstate pipeline system."
Staff also addressed comments regarding Atlantic Bridge's relationship with the proposed Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Project and the Access Northeast (ANE) Project. These commenters alleged improper segmentation; that is, the segmenting of what would amount to a larger project in total. Staff disagreed.
"The Atlantic Bridge Project is an unconnected single action that has independent utility irrespective of any other projects, including the AIM and ANE Projects," staff said. "...Applicants have executed precedent agreements with seven shippers who account for the entire Atlantic Bridge capacity. These are firm commitments to meet project shippers' deliveries beginning in November 2017. Therefore, the scope of this EA is limited to the Atlantic Bridge Project."
Atlantic Bridge would involve expansion of existing pipeline in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine. It would involve construction and operation of about 6.3 miles of 42-inch diameter pipeline to replace existing 26-inch diameter pipeline (Stony Point Discharge Take-up and Relay and Southeast Discharge Take-Up and Relay segments); construction of a compressor station and modifications to three existing compressor stations to install an additional 26,500 hp; modifications to five existing metering and regulating (M&R) stations and one existing regulator station; and construction of one M&R station.