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FERC OKs Atlantic Bridge Construction Despite Challengers

FERC this week issued an order giving Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC partial authorization to proceed with construction on its proposed Atlantic Bridge expansion, setting aside calls from opposition groups seeking to halt the project.

On Monday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects, in response to a March 14 request filed by Algonquin, gave the company the go-ahead to make use of certain facilities in Connecticut in connection with the Atlantic Bridge [CP16-9] project's construction.

The order comes after opponents of the project challenged FERC over its lack of a quorum, questioning whether the agency can authorize construction on recently certificated projects while it lacks authority to act on rehearing requests.

Atlantic Bridge, a 132,700 Dth/d expansion of the Algonquin and Maritimes & Northeast pipeline systems in New England, is backed by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. after its recent acquisition of Spectra Energy.

FERC issued a certificate order approving Atlantic Bridge in January, shortly before the departure of former Chairman Norman Bay left the agency with only two out of five sitting Commissioners.

Last week, a coalition of groups led by Food & Water Watch urged FERC to deny Algonquin's request to move forward with construction on Atlantic Bridge. FERC staff, a authorized by a Commission order issued shortly before it lost its quorum, issued a tolling order Monday that effectively delays a decision on the Atlantic Bridge rehearing request without it being denied due to inaction.

This could be important for an opposition group looking to take its challenge to an appeals court, where procedure generally requires a FERC action on a rehearing request before the court will review it.

Groups challenging Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC's Atlantic Sunrise expansion recently took their case to court even though FERC tolled their rehearing request. The groups argued that FERC's inability to act amounted to a denial by operation of law, making their case ripe for court review.

Analysts at ClearView Energy have said that the unusual situation at FERC could increase the risk of a judge granting a stay for recently certificated projects with pending rehearing requests.

Atlantic Bridge is scheduled to begin service in November.

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