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FERC Denies Environmentalist's Requests For Atlantic Bridge Rehearings

FERC has turned down requests from a coalition of environmental and other stakeholder groups for rehearings of a quintet of approvals the Commission issued this year to Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC for its proposed Atlantic Bridge expansion.

The stakeholders had asked for rehearings of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decisions issued between March 27 and July 31 for Atlantic Bridge, a 132,700 Dth/d expansion of the Algonquin and Maritimes & Northeast pipeline systems in New England [CP16-9]. The rehearing requests questioned three authorizations to proceed with construction, a variance to use additional temporary workspace, and an authorization to place into service certain piping modifications at a compressor station. The coalition included a laundry list of environmental groups and Lori and Michael Hayden, who own property near a proposed Algonquin compressor station in Massachusetts.

FERC ruled against all of the requests, finding that the Haydens lack standing since the Atlantic Bridge expansion is located in Connecticut. The Commission also rejected the petitioners' contention that because FERC was without a quorum when the notices were issued, they were "without force and effect and must be rescinded," and their contention that in subdelegating the authorizations, FERC left the decisions in the hands of officials who lacked authority.

"We disagree and find that the coalition and the Haydens misconstrue the Commission's delegation of authority in this case," FERC said in an order issued Thursday.

"...The Commission has, through its regulations, delegated authority to conduct specific enumerated functions to different Commission offices. The Commission also routinely delegates authority through its orders, as in this proceeding."

Completing FERC’s action on the project with its rehearing order clears the way for project opponents to take their case to the courts.

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. Days later FERC staff, as authorized by a Commission order issued shortly before it lost its quorum, issued a tolling order that effectively delayed a decision on the first Atlantic Bridge rehearing request without it being denied due to inaction.

Environmental groups have increasingly turned their attention to slowing down natural gas infrastructure projects both at the state and federal levels, filing a series of similar legal challenges against not only Atlantic Bridge, but also Atlantic Sunrise,Nexus Gas Transmission and other pipeline projects. Earlier this month,

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network struck up the latest such challenge earlier this month, filing both for a rehearing of FERC's authorization of Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC’s Eastern System Upgrade (ESU) project, and in federal court to appeal the project's New York state permits.

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