The Constitution Pipeline, which would carry Marcellus Shale natural gas to markets in the Northeast, has cleared another hurdle with a federal court ruling that it can access and build across land owned by seven property owners in Pennsylvania that opposed the project.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania found that not only has the pipeline received approval and permits from FERC, but that it will also serve in the public interest and provide fair compensation to landowners along the proposed route.

The 125-mile, 30-inch diameter Constitution, which is backed by subsidiaries of Williams Partners LP, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas Co. and WGL Holdings (see Shale Daily, June 3, 2013), would provide 650,000 Dth/d of capacity and originate in Susquehanna County, PA, where a glut of natural gas is locked in by inadequate infrastructure. It would terminate in Schoharie County, NY, where it would interconnect with the Iroquois and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems.

Constitution filed its application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year and its Final Environmental Impact Statement was approved by the commission in October (see Shale Daily, Oct. 24, 2014; Jan. 22, 2013). In December, it was given the green light to begin construction (see Shale Daily, Dec. 3, 2014).

The pipeline needed access to 130 properties in Pennsylvania and was able to cut deals with all but seven landowners, some of whom did not respond to the court complaints filed against them. Constitution also recently received approval from Pennsylvania regulators. Before it can begin construction on the properties in question, it must first put up a $1.6 billion bond to guarantee adequate compensation is available for the landowners.

The court win follows a series of setbacks as the pipeline has worked its way through grassroots opposition and the state and federal regulatory process. Construction was originally set to begin last year but was delayed to last month. Its backers are now aiming for construction to begin this summer for an in-service date of late 2016.