Accusing Tennessee Gas Pipeline of “improperly segmenting” its expansion projects to avoid rigorous environmental reviews, three environmental groups have filed an emergency motion asking FERC to expedite consideration of their request for the agency to rehear a May order approving the pipeline’s Northeast Upgrade Project.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, New Jersey Highlands Coalition and the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club jointly asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to act quickly on their request for rehearing of the May order, which approved the expansion of Tennessee’s existing 300 Line system in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to provide an additional 636,000 Dth/d of Marcellus Shale gas to Northeast markets (see Shale Daily, May 31).

“[The] request for rehearing…has now been pending before the Commission for over five months, which is more than enough time for the Commission to make an informed decision. Construction activity on the project is now imminent,” the three groups said [CP11-161]. “Each day that the Commission does not either grant or deny rehearing on the project is another day that intervenors have no recourse to address the harms they are experiencing as a result of the Commission’s May [order].”

In the May order, FERC rejected arguments that it should have produced a more comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS) that would be required of a larger project, rather than an environmental assessment. Some argued that an EIS was warranted to take into consideration the prolific development in the Marcellus Shale basin, which the Tennessee expansion would serve. But FERC responded that the “potential cumulative impacts of Marcellus Shale development are not sufficiently causally related to the project to warrant the comprehensive consideration of those impacts in our staff’s analysis.” Moreover, it said the more detailed analysis of Marcellus Shale impacts was outside the scope of the project analysis.

Intervenors in the case further expressed concern that Tennessee’s project would threaten vital drinking water resources in the region, including the Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the Monksville Reservoir in Passaic County, NJ. The pipeline’s expansion project would cross both of these water bodies. But FERC said “Tennessee’s HDD [horizontal directional drill] contingency plans included provisions to minimize the impact of inadvertent release of drilling mud…into water bodies.”

The groups’ rehearing request also addressed Tennessee’s Rose Lake Expansion Project, which would boost the compression capacity along the pipeline’s 300 Line to meet the growing demand for interstate natural gas transportation service in the northeastern United States and Canada (see Shale Daily, Oct. 22). The project calls for the addition of 12,630 hp at the pipeline’s Compressor Station 315 near Wellsboro in Tioga County, PA; the addition of approximately 3,661 hp and the replacement of approximately 9,000 hp at the Wyalusing Compressor Station 319 in Bradford County, PA; and the upgrade of an existing compressor and installation of other facilities at Tennessee’s Troy Compressor Station 317, also located in Bradford County. It would provide about 230,000 Dth/d of additional firm capacity along the 300 Line for Marcellus Shale producers.

“The initiation of this project provides further evidence that [Tennessee] is improperly segmenting its expansion projects to avoid its responsibilities under NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act], and to avoid having to complete more rigorous environmental studies,” they said.

The proposed Rose Lake Expansion “can now be added to the four other Tennessee projects that are as interrelated as they are operationally dependent,” which include the Northeast Supply Diversification Project, the MPP Project, the 300 Line Upgrade Project and the Northeast Upgrade Project, the three groups told the Commission.

“The addition of the Rose Lake Expansion to these other four projects provides yet more evidence of Tennessee’s unlawful activity.”