FERC has given Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC (Transco) permission to construct two sections of looping pipeline in north central Pennsylvania and allow the company to use three adjacent contractor yards for its $3 billion, 198-mile Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline project serving the Marcellus Shale region.

In a letter order Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Transco, a Williams subsidiary, could construct the Chapman Loop and the Unity Loop [CP15-138]. The Chapman Loop consists of 2.5 miles of 36-inch diameter looping pipeline to be built in Clinton County, while the Unity Loop is an 8.5-mile, 42-inch diameter looping pipeline planned for Lycoming County.

The Commission also granted Transco permission to use a contractor yard in Clinton County as a staging area for the Chapman Loop, and another yard in Lycoming for staging around the Unity Loop. A third yard in Lycoming can be used as a staging area and for pipe storage along the Unity Loop, FERC said. Transco had petitioned FERC for permission to build the pipeline loops and use the contractor yards earlier this month.

Authorization came eight days after FERC denied a request from a coalition of environmental groups for a rehearing or stay over the proposed pipeline. In a separate order issued last week, the Commission ruled that many of the project’s opponents lacked standing in the case, and others had missed important deadlines for the review process.

“The Commission found that a stay could jeopardize compliance with the limited tree clearing window recommended by the Fish and Wildlife Service in order to mitigate impacts on threatened and endangered species in the project area,” FERC wrote in its Dec. 6 order. “The Commission also found that ‘any delay in construction could delay completion of a project that the Commission has found to be required by the public interest.’ Intervenors fail to address these findings.”

FERC issued a certificate order for Atlantic Sunrise on Feb. 3, and a tolling order on March 13. A coalition of environmental groups, including the Allegheny Defense Project and the Sierra Club, requested a rehearing on Feb. 10. In an attempt at an end run to delay the project, the coalition also filed a petition for review challenging the expansion’s certificate in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last March.

Atlantic Sunrise, a proposed 1.7 million Dth/d expansion of the Transco system, would open a path for constrained Marcellus gas to reach markets in the Southeast. Other facets of the project include about three miles of 30-inch diameter replacements in Virginia, plus associated compressor stations, equipment and facilities. The project was one of the last to be approved by FERC before former Chairman Norman Bay departed on Feb. 3, which touched off a no-quorum period that lasted nearly seven months.