An expansion of a major natural gas pipeline to supply New York City can move forward in the permitting process after federal regulators on Friday, after a four-month delay, issued a positive environmental impact statement (EIS) for a project that continues to face an uphill regulatory battle.

FERC said the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, a 400,000 Dth/d expansion of the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line (aka Transco), would result in some adverse environmental impacts. However, all impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels by implementing Transco’s proposed mitigation and the additional measures recommended in the final EIS.

“This final EIS is a significant milestone for the project. Since this proposal was first introduced in 2016, we have worked diligently to identify potential environmental issues or concerns, incorporating adjustments to the project design to avoid or minimize impacts. We believe that the final EIS positively reflects our efforts to collaborate with stakeholders to design this project in an environmentally responsible manner,” said Chris Stockton, a spokesman for Transco parent company Williams.

The expansion would include 10 miles of pipe in Pennsylvania, three miles in New Jersey and 23 miles of pipe offshore New Jersey and New York in addition to a compressor station in Franklin Township, NJ, and more horsepower at an existing station in Pennsylvania. The project would link gas from Transco’s Compressor Station (CS) 195 in York County, PA, to its offshore Rockaway Transfer Point, an existing interconnection between the underwater Lower New York Bay Lateral and the Rockaway Delivery Lateral in New York waters.

Of particular concern to the project’s opposition is the 23-mile segment of pipeline that would cross Raritan Bay from Old Bridge, NJ, to Rockaway Point in Queens and the new compressor station in Franklin Township.

In its EIS, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the proposed route and construction methods for the Raritan Bay Loop were developed in consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies to minimize crossing designated anchorage areas, meet marine traffic safety requirements and reduce impacts on water quality and aquatic wildlife.

As for concerns related to the compressor station, FERC said Transco would design, construct, operate and maintain CS 206, including the inlet and outlet pipelines, according to engineering practices that meet or exceed the U.S. Department of Transportation’s safety standards. In regards to public health concerns, the Commission said Transco would employ air pollution control measures to reduce emissions.

FERC said it evaluated numerous alternatives to Transco’s proposal and determined those would either not meet the stated purpose and need of the project, would be infeasible or would not provide a significant environmental advantage when compared to the proposed project.

The final EIS is a key step toward FERC’s final decision on the project, which is expected later this spring [CP17-101]. The delay wasn’t expected to negatively impact the project’s scheduled winter 2020 in-service date, a spokesman for Transco parent Williams told NGI.

Transco has proposed to begin construction in the second half of this year and place the project in service by Dec. 1, 2020.

However, Transco’s application for a water quality certification (WQC) required by the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and other state permits for the project in New York have been on hold since last summer. Pennsylvania has also been reviewing the project for a Section 401 WQC under the CWA.

Last April, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied Transco’s application for a WQC. The application, which was filed in June 2017, was incomplete, according to DEC, which also said that FERC’s ongoing environmental review could result in changes to the project. Transco refiled at the DEC for a WQC in May.