The embattled Islander East Pipeline got another punch in the stomach Wednesday when a federal appellate court in New York affirmed a lower court’s decision that blocks the Connecticut-to-Long Island project from going forward.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York upheld an August 2007 ruling by the U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, CT, which set aside a decision by the secretary of the Department of Commerce that overruled Connecticut’s objections to the project (see Daily GPI, Aug. 21, 2007).

U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill said at the time that the commerce secretary had failed to adequately address the impacts that the 45-mile pipeline project would have on Connecticut, and ordered the agency to reconsider its decision. Connecticut argued that the proposed Islander East failed to comply with the state’s coastal zone management plan. Islander East appealed the decision in September.

“The [latest] decision places the case back in the hands of the secretary of commerce, who must now justify his predecessor’s 2004 override of [the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s] denial of the proposed pipeline. Islander East will have to wait for the secretary of commerce’s revised decision and for the U.S. District Court to rule before it can appeal to a higher court,” said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has spearheaded the state’s opposition to Islander East.

The court ruling “effectively [pushes] the proposal back to its own one-yard line, forcing a do-over after the secretary of commerce’s fumble,” he said.

Islander East, which is jointly sponsored by Spectra Energy and KeySpan, could not be reached for comment. .

The $180 million project, if built, initially would deliver 285,000 Dth/d of gas from New Haven, CT, across Long Island Sound to Suffolk County near Yaphank, NY, with a lateral to be constructed to Calverton, NY. Additionally, Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy, would loop about 13.7 miles of existing pipeline in Connecticut and add a new compressor station in Cheshire, CT. As a result of these upgrades in Connecticut, Algonquin would interconnect with Islander East. Approximately 22 miles of the pipeline would be built on the floor of Long Island Sound.

The Islander East proposal has been at the center of a lengthy and labyrinthine legal dispute since it was first approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in September 2002 (see Daily GPI, Sept. 19, 2002). The state of Connecticut initially interrupted the Islander East project by claiming that it was inconsistent with its Coastal Zone Management Act statute, which gives states the right to block projects that they view as detrimental to their coastal areas. But former Commerce Secretary Donald Evans in May 2004 overturned the state’s decision (see Daily GPI, May 7, 2004).

In March 2007, Islander East seemed to have won a key victory when the U.S. District Court of New Haven rejected arguments by Connecticut’s attorney general, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Town of Branford, CT, ruling that the proposed pipeline did not require a state permit (see Daily GPI, March 28, 2007). Since the project had already been approved by FERC, the court said the Commission certificate superseded the state permitting requirement.

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