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Divided FERC Authorizes Portland XPress, Northern Natural Natural Gas Projects

A divided FERC on Thursday granted certificates of public convenience and necessity to a pair of natural gas pipeline projects proposed in New England and Minnesota.

At its regular meeting, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted 3-1 to authorize the third and final phase of the Portland XPress project, proposed by the Portland Natural Gas Transmission System (PNGTS). The project would increase the capacity of PNGTS's north system by 24,473 Dth/d and increase the capacity on a portion of the system jointly owned by Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline LLC (M&NE) by 22,428 Dth/d [CP18-506, CP18-539].

FERC's order granted PNGTS permission to abandon capacity it leases from M&NE on the joint facilities when in-service begins on the final phase of Portland XPress. The project calls for PNGTS to acquire part ownership of M&NE’s Westbrook Compressor Station in Cumberland County, ME, as well as to make modifications and additions to other facilities. In addition, the Commission authorized M&NE to reacquire capacity it leases to PNGTS on the joint facilities and to abandon a portion of compressor station ownership.

Portland XPress received a favorable environmental assessment from FERC in November. PNGTS held an open season in 2017 to solicit interest in the project, resulting in eight precedent agreements for a total of 136,830 Mcf/d of firm transportation service. PNGTS had requested to abandon 7,185 Mcf/d of existing capacity of interim capacity from M&NE.

Meanwhile, FERC also voted 3-1 authorizing Northern Natural Gas Co. to build and operate its Northern Lights 2019 and Rochester Expansion projects across several Minnesota counties. The projects include constructing 26.5 miles of lateral pipelines and 4.7 miles of looping pipeline, plus additional compression and associated infrastructure [CP18-534].

FERC granted Northern Natural permission to abandon three segments of pipeline totaling less than 300 feet at an existing compressor station. The projects are fully subscribed and will provide a total of 138,504 Dth/d of additional service.

Commissioner Richard Glick, a Democrat, dissented in part for both votes, citing what he called FERC's failure “to adequately consider the project's impact on climate change in finding that the application before us is consistent with the public interest...

"I have at length explained my concerns with the Commission's stubborn refusal to consider a project's potential impact on climate change in several recent proceedings and will not rehash them all here," Glick wrote for both orders. "Nevertheless, it is important to highlight the fact that the Commission continues to exclude climate change from playing any meaningful role in its decision-making process."

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