PA Lawmaker Seeks to Revoke Independence Certificate

Seizing upon a deadline ultimatum recently issued by FERC for the proposed Independence Pipeline and associated SupplyLink expansion, State Rep. Frank LaGrotta of Pennsylvania has called on the Commission to revoke the certificate for the construction of the controversial, multi-state project.

An ardent foe of the project, LaGrotta said his request was based on the "clear and inescapable inability" of the sponsors to meet the deadline for the project's environmental clearances and on what he called a flawed final environmental impact statement (FEIS) by FERC staff.

In a letter to FERC on Nov. 28, the state lawmaker claimed it was "inconceivable that Independence could possibly meet FERC's May 1, 2001 deadline by which you have mandated that the environmental clearances be obtained" for the project.

LaGrotta's bid to revoke the project came on the heels of the Commission staff's rejection of a request by Independence Pipeline Co. and ANR Pipeline for an extension of the deadline for complying with the FERC-imposed environmental requirements. They asked for an extension to Feb. 1, 2002, but FERC staff held fast to May 1, 2001 as the deadline. It further warned the sponsors that Independence and SupplyLink "could be in jeopardy" if the data is filed late [see NGI, Nov. 27, 2000].

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection already has issued a "pre-denial" of the Independence sponsors' request for a 401 environmental clearance, according to LaGrotta. This ruling was based Independence's failure to provide "written concurrence from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the project will not adversely impact federally listed, proposed or candidate species."

The Fish and Wildlife can't issue such a finding until the Independence sponsors conduct a study required under the Endangered Species Act, according to LaGrotta. However, the report "has not, as yet, been conducted," and "cannot even be begun until May 15, 2001, pushing back any foreseeable date by which the companies could receive their 401 clearance [from the state] to late fall."

In a Dec. 18 letter to FERC, LaGrotta further pointed out that while the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks said Independence could cross two state parks, another state agency denied new rights-of-way within the parks for the construction.

FERC issued the certificate on the Independence and SupplyLink projects in July. If ever completed, SupplyLink, a 73-mile looping of ANR's existing system, and the 400-mile, 36-inch Independence line would ship to East Coast markets about 1 Bcf/d of natural gas that currently is flowing into the Midwest over Alliance Pipeline and Northern Border Pipeline's extension/expansion. Susan Parker

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