Commerce Department Secretary Donald Evans on Monday upheld New York State’s objection to Millennium Pipeline’s proposed 442-mile, 700 MMcf/d pipeline from Lake Erie to New York City.

The secretary’s ruling stemmed from an appeal filed by Millennium of New York’s efforts to block the natural gas pipeline under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). FERC issued a certificate for the project in September 2002, but New York has stalled Millennium because it claimed that adverse effects along portions of the planned route were inconsistent with the state’s coastal management program. Millennium had asked Commerce to override the state’s objection.

“New York’s objection is found to have been raised in a timely manner and neither of the CZMA’s two grounds for overriding a state’s objection is found to have been satisfied [by Millennium]. Therefore…neither the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nor the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may issue relevant permits to allow Millennium’s project to proceed as proposed,” according to the 40-page Commerce ruling.

“We are reviewing the [Commerce] decision carefully and will consider our options following the ruling. We do not yet know if we will pursue a review of the decision in the courts,” said Millennium Pipeline in a prepared statement. The Millennium project has been pending since 1997.

Evans found there was a reasonable alternative to Millennium’s proposed route that would limit the coastal effects involving fish and wildlife habitat at the pipeline’s planned crossing of the Hudson River at Haverstraw Bay, a state-designated “Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat.” The alternative route also would minimize the risks to New York City’s water supply, the ruling said.

Specifically, the Commerce decision appears to favor rerouting the proposed Millennium pipeline to cross the Hudson River north of the environmentally sensitive Haverstraw Bay and to avoid the city’s water supply.

“We continue to contend that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s analysis and conclusion is correct: crossing the Hudson River at Haverstraw Bay is the only viable option for constructing this pipeline in a safe and environmentally sound manner,” Millennium said. The route endorsed by Commerce was “fully considered and specifically rejected as infeasible” by FERC, it noted.

Changing the route will add some complication for Millennium, but “the obstacles are not so severe as to suggest infeasibility,” the Commerce ruling said. Some of the pipeline’s arguments opposing a route change “are vague and either suggest potential difficulties that fall short of infeasibility or lack sufficient weight to satisfy its burden of proof,” it noted.

In order to grant Millennium’s appeal, Commerce also would have had to find that national defense or other national security interests would suffer “significant impairment” if the project did not to move forward. But the department said the “record for this appeal does not contain information indicating [this would occur]” if the pipeline wasn’t built.

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