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FERC Blocks Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s Millennium Pipeline Upgrade Protest

Declaring that “justice does not require a stay,” FERC has denied a stay of Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC’s Eastern System Upgrade (ESU) project, which would provide an additional 223,000 Dth/d of firm transportation service to local distribution companies (LDC) and municipalities in New York.

The move for a stay and a request for rehearing were filed by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) in December [CP16-486]. DRN claimed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to properly evaluate the project’s environmental impacts.

DRN said in its rehearing request that the project’s environmental assessment (EA) was “deficient.” FERC issued the certificate Nov. 28, saying, as the EA did, that ESU does not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, and therefore, that an environmental impact statement was not required.

In its order denying the stay, FERC said DRN had made “little effort to substantiate a claim of irreparable injury.” Instead, DRN “simply asserts that, if the Eastern System Upgrade Project goes forward, Riverkeeper members in the vicinity of the proposed project route will suffer from the loss of forest lands, wetlands, and streams ‘in and around where they live, work and recreate,’ as well as ‘alteration of the unique character of their rural community.’”

In order to support a stay, it must be shown that irreparable injury that is “both certain and great and…not theoretical” is likely to occur, FERC said. “Bare allegations of what is likely to occur do not suffice.”

DRN in December also took its opposition to ESU to a federal court, asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to review the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) September decision to issue a water quality certification (WQC) and other permits for the project. Specifically, DRN challenged the pollutant discharge elimination system general permit, which it wants thrown out. The organization’s petition was short on details, however, and did not include arguments for review.

DRN said ESU poses a risk to the environment because it would be part of Millennium’s broader 240-mile system in New York and other projects like the Valley Lateral and future expansions. The Valley Lateral project would serve a natural gas-fired power plant under construction in the state. While New York denied the Valley Lateral project’s WQC over potential environmental impacts, FERC reversed that decision and cleared the lateral to move forward.

New York is fighting that decision in court. The two new legal challenges, DRN said, further embroil Millennium in such proceedings.

ESU would include building about eight miles of 30- and 36-inch diameter pipeline looping in Orange County, NY, and a new compressor station with 22,400 hp in Sullivan County, NY, to add 223,000 Dth/d of firm transportation service to local distribution companies and municipalities.

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