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U.S. Approves New Northeast Pipeline

Friday, December 5, 2014

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Federal regulators have given the go-ahead to a $683 million, 124-mile pipeline project that would tap natural-gas production in Pennsylvania to serve customers in New York and New England.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave approval Tuesday (Dec. 2) for Constitution Pipeline Co.'s proposed 30-inch-diameter pipeline, also giving the company power of eminent domain.

The approval is conditioned on the company's ability to mitigate a list of environmental impact issues during construction. The plan also still needs permits from Pennsylvania, New York, and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Constitution Pipeline
Images unless noted: ConstitutionPipeline.com

Federal regulators have approved the 124-mile Constitution Pipeline project, which will deliver natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York and New England markets.

Constitution Pipeline is a partnership owned by subsidiaries of Williams Partners, Cabot Oil and Gas, Piedmont Natural Gas and WGL Holdings.

Project Scope

The federal order also authorized Constitution to enter into a lease agreement with Iroquois Gas Transmission System to build 22,000 hp compression facilities at the Wright Interconnect Project in Wright, NY. The project is designed to connect the Marcellus Shale with Iroquois' markets.

The new compression facilities will give Constitution the compression it needs to deliver natural gas from the terminus of the proposed pipeline into both Iroquois and Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company.

The project's associated facilities also include:

  • Two meter stations;
  • 10 communication towers;
  • One pig launcher and one pig receiver; and
  • 11 mainline valves.

Constitution said that, if the plan holds, construction will start in the first quarter, and the pipeline could be in service between late 2015 and mid-2016.

"Now that FERC has issued its order, we look forward to receiving the remaining approvals we need to begin construction on this pipeline so that we can deliver much-needed additional natural gas supply to New York and New England as quickly as possible," the project sponsors said in a joint statement.

'Convenience and Necessity'

The pipeline is designed to transport enough natural gas to serve about three million Northeast homes daily.

pipeline construction emminent domain

The company has made changes to over 50 percent of its proposed route to address concerns from landowners and to negotiate mutually acceptable easement agreements, according to FERC.

Last winter, Constitution said, customers in the region faced high natural-gas prices and "significantly higher" electricity costs because of insufficient natural-gas pipeline capacity.

"[W]e find that the benefits the Constitution Pipeline Project and the Wright Interconnection Project will provide to the market outweigh any adverse effects on existing shippers, other pipeline and their captive customers, and on landowners and surrounding communities," FERC wrote in its order.

"[W]e find that the public convenience and necessity requires approval of Constitution's proposal, as conditioned in this order."

'Some' Environmental Impacts

According to FERC, the projects will result in some adverse environmental impacts, but those impacts will be reduced to "less-than-significant" levels.

FERC issued its final Environmental Impact Statement for the project Oct. 24.

The pipeline will cross 289 surface waterbodies, one of which is considered a "major" waterbody because it is over 100 feet wide. None of the aboveground facilities will impact waterbodies.

FERC environmental impact

Constitution said it would implement several measures that exceed the U.S. Department of Transportation's Minimum Federal Safety Standards.

Construction of the pipeline will impact 95.3 acres of wetlands, mainly from temporary workspaces. According to FERC, these areas will eventually return to pre-construction conditions, but "this may take many years."

FERC said it will implement a compliance inspection program, under which a FERC staff member or a designated contractor will periodically inspect the construction and right-of-way revegetation and restoration. The inspections will take place from the start of construction until several years after the project is completed.

Constitution also agreed to a third-party monitoring program, which allows environmental monitors to be in the field for the duration of construction and initial restoration. The monitors will report directly to FERC and "provide an additional level of compliance oversight."

Addressing Safety, Land Concerns

The company also said it would implement several measures that exceed the U.S. Department of Transportation's Minimum Federal Safety Standards.

Those steps include Installing Class 2 design pipe in all Class 1 locations. Class locations are based on population density;  higher class location requires measures such as thicker-walled pipe, lower design pressure, and more frequent inspections.

WIP
Iroquois.com

The pipeline project will include new compression facilities at the existing Wright Interconnect Project in Wright, NY. WIP is designed to connect the Marcellus Shale with Iroquois Gas markets.

Other measures include:

  • Installing pipeline deeper than required for Class 1 locations with a minimum depth of 36 inches in normal soils and 24 inches in consolidated rock;
     
  • Inspecting the entirety of mainline pipeline welds;
     
  • Conducting hydrostatic testing of the entire pipeline at a level suitable for Class 3 locations; and
     
  • Spacing mainline valves at closer intervals to meet Class 2 requirements in all areas.

Constitution has proposed, where feasible, building the pipeline within or parallel to existing rights-of-way. The company has made changes to more than 50 percent of its proposed route to address concerns from landowners and to negotiate mutually acceptable easement agreements, according to FERC.

A local oppostion group, Stop the Pipeline, plans to request a rehearing from FERC and make comments as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reviews the project under the Clean Water Act, Anne Marie Garti, a New York attorney and the group's co-founder, told TheTimes-Tribune.com.

"There's still big hurdles that the pipeline company has to go through on less-friendly territory than rubber-stamp FERC," Garti said.

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Environmental Protection; Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); North America; Pipelines; Program/Project Management

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