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New York Tells Transco Northeast Supply Enhancement Application Incomplete

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) this week told Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. (Transco) that its application for a water quality certification required by the federal Clean Water Act and other state permits for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project is incomplete.

DEC's Monday notice of an incomplete application, however, was not unexpected, according to agency officials and Transco parent Williams Partners LP. Based on a preliminary review, DEC said Transco's application would be incomplete pending the project's draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) from FERC and until a sediment modeling analysis and sampling are complete. In the meantime, the agency said it would "continue to identify any additional information that must be submitted" to complete its administrative review.

Williams spokesman Christopher Stockton said the company has been "working very closely" with the DEC and "knew the application would not be deemed administratively complete until" the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issues a DEIS. He said New York regulators are aware that the company has committed to hydrodynamic sediment modeling at a later date.

"This was expected and does not prevent the agency from continuing to review the submitted portions of the application," Stockton said. " This is not expected to impact the project schedule." A DEC official also told NGI that it's not uncommon for the agency to issue a notice of incomplete application during the permit application process.

But the notice does come when DEC's relationship with the oil and gas industry has grown increasingly tense. Environmentalists and concerned residents in New York and New Jersey also have stepped up opposition to the Northeast Supply project since Transco filed at FERC in March for a certificate of public convenience and necessity.

The nearly $1 billion project would expand Transco to increase natural gas deliveries to National Grid -- the largest distributor of natural gas in the Northeast. The project is designed to create 400,000 Dth/d of incremental firm capacity to Northeast markets, primarily to feed the growing demand for gas in New York City, which two years ago announced plans to phase out the use of No. 4 fuel oil by 2030 to help curb emissions.

Transco is targeting a December 2019 in-service date for the Northeast Supply project. It hopes to have the expansion online by then to meet National Grid's forecasted demand for the winter heating season. Stockton said the company expects FERC to issue a DEIS for the project sometime this fall.

The expansion would include 10 miles of pipe in Pennsylvania, three miles in New Jersey and 23 miles of pipe offshore New Jersey and New York in addition to a compressor station in Franklin Township, NJ, and more horsepower at an existing station in Pennsylvania. The project would link gas from Transco's compressor station 195 in York County, PA, to its offshore Rockaway Transfer Point, an existing interconnection between the underwater Lower New York Bay Lateral and the Rockaway Delivery Lateral in New York waters.

Of particular concern to the project's opposition is the 23-mile segment of new pipeline that would cross Raritan Bay from Old Bridge, NJ, to Rockaway Point in Queens and the new compressor station in Franklin Township. The New York City-based Surfrider Foundation, which has 84 chapters dedicated to protecting coastlines across the country, has established a website in opposition to the project, citing the underwater crossing as one of the primary reasons for its opposition.

In New Jersey, a grassroots group has formed to fight the compressor station, and Democratic Assemblyman Joe Danielsen has introduced a resolution that would allow the legislature to formally oppose the project. Other federal and state lawmakers also have sent a letter to FERC expressing concerns about the expansion, while the New Jersey Sierra Club derided the project's recent economic impact study.

The industry is already on edge about the DEC and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo given some high profile battles that have unfolded in recent years over high volume hydraulic fracturing, which was banned by the state in 2015, and troubles for a number of pipeline projects that would cross through the state.

DEC denied National Fuel Gas Co. subsidiaries water quality certification and other permits for the Northern Access expansion project earlier this year. The agency denied a water quality certification last year for the Constitution Pipeline. Both are challenging the DEC's decisions in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Constitution is a partnership of companies led by Williams.

The agency also sparred with the Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC over a protracted regulatory review for a lateral that would serve a power plant under construction in the state. A federal appeals court last month declined a request by the company to compel DEC to expedite a water quality certification, suggesting the company could bypass the state and go directly to FERC, which already has approved it.

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