FERC has to conduct a “vigorous and exhaustive” needs analysis for the proposed Constitution Pipeline before it allows the Marcellus-to-New York natural gas project to go forth, said an environmental law practice representing the grassroots coalition “Stop the Pipeline (STP).”

Constitution, a joint venture launched in February by partners Williams Partners LP and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., is opposed by hundreds of landowners in six counties in Pennsylvania and New York. The planned 120-mile-long, 30-inch diameter pipeline pipeline would connect William Partners’ gathering system in Susquehanna County, PA, to the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems in Schoharie County, NY (see Shale Daily, April 27).

“Williams/Cabot has stated that it has contracts to sell the gas it intends to transport, and that those contracts are sufficient proof of the need for the pipeline. If that is true, then the FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] should require the disclosure of those contracts in the EIS [environmental impact statement],” said the STP coalition, whose members include interests from Susquehanna County, PA and New York’s Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie counties.

“The FERC should…probe who is buying the gas, for what markets, and over what period of time. After all, these corporations have many financial incentives [to construct the pipeline]. For example, Cabot is both an investor in the pipeline and a company that drills for gas, so the pipeline could give it a competitive edge in the new shale formations when New York State opens its borders to drilling.

“Williams also plays multiple roles; it is a majority owner of the proposed pipeline as well as a potential driller of gas, and a provider of gathering lines and other facilities in new drilling fields,” said the STP group.

“The FERC should not acquiesce to objections by the Constitution Pipeline Co. to the disclosure of its contracts. The company should not be allowed to use its contracts as both a sword to justify the taking of peoples’ property and a shield to guard against scrutiny.”

STP further pointed out that the Constitution Pipeline would overlie the Marcellus and Utica shale formations. As such, it is “reasonably foreseeable” that it will be a “magnet for hydraulic fracturing [fracking],” and any environmental review of the pipeline should include all of the impacts associated with a complete build-out of fracking in the proposed pipeline area, the coalition said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has called on FERC to consider alternatives to the planned Constitution Pipeline (see Shale Daily, Oct. 9).

In a letter to FERC last Friday, David Stilwell, a field supervisor for the FWS, wrote that “we are aware of several proposed and existing gas pipeline projects which deliver gas from Pennsylvania to New York (Tennessee Gas Line 300, Stagecoach to Millennium and Texas Eastern). The FERC should require a more thorough review of these projects as alternatives for delivering gas to southeast New York” in its EIS on the project.