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Appellate Court Rejects Another Riverkeeper Challenge of TGP's Orion Project

For the second time in one week, an appellate court panel in Philadelphia rejected an environmental group's challenge to Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC's Orion Project, a looping project on its 300 Line designed to serve increasing demand in the Mid-Atlantic and New England.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected arguments by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) erred when it issued water quality certification permits for the project last September, and approved stream and wetland crossings five months later.

DRN had argued that the appellate court lacked jurisdiction because the DEP's orders weren't final until they were reviewed by the state's Environmental Hearing Board. The environmental group also said DEP's determination that the Orion Project is "water dependent" was erroneous, and that its analysis of alternatives was inadequate. Specifically, DRN asserted that DEP should have considered a compression alternative.

Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith and Circuit Court Judges Richard Nygaard and Julio Fuentes said they upheld the "DEP's decision on the merits because the agency's unique interpretation of water dependency is reasonable and worthy of deference. Furthermore, the agency considered and rejected the compression alternative for reasons that are supported by the record. We will therefore deny the petition for review."

The same three-judge panel ruled against the DRN in a separate case last week. In that case, the DRN challenged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for issuing a Section 404 permit for the Orion Project on Feb. 3, the same date that FERC issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the project. DRN had laid out similar arguments in both cases.

“TGP is pleased by the Third Circuit's comprehensive decisions addressing the multiple arguments presented by the petitioners,” KMI spokeswoman Sara Hughes told NGI on Thursday. “The Army Corps and the DEP each conducted an extensive review of the project in coordination with FERC and properly explained and supported their granting of the requested permits.

“Construction is underway, and the project is expected to be placed into service for the upcoming winter heating season.”

The Orion Project includes construction of a 36-inch diameter, 8.23-mile pipeline loop along the 300 Line in Wayne and Pike counties, PA (Loop 322); construction of a 36-inch diameter, 4.68-mile loop along the 300 Line in Pike County (Loop 323); and installing appurtenant and auxiliary facilities. The projected project cost is $143 million.

South Jersey Resources Group LLC, South Jersey Gas Co., and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. have signed up for all of the project's capacity, according to the Kinder Morgan Inc. (KMI) pipeline's filing at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The most recent appellate case, with DEP as respondent, is DRN et al v. DEP et al [No. 17-1533]. Last week's case, with the Army Corps as respondent, is DRN et al v. Army Corps [No. 17-1506].

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