$3B Gas Pipeline Construction Begins
Energy firm Williams Partners announced earlier this week that construction is underway on the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline in central and eastern Pennsylvania, which the company says will connect shale gas drilling sites in the northeastern part of the state with consumers in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.
According to Williams, Atlantic Sunrise will comprise 183 miles of new greenfield pipe, as well as two pipeline loops, a short stretch of pipeline replacement and two new compressor facilities in Pennsylvania. The project, an extension of the existing Transco pipeline, will also include modifications to facilities in Pennsylvania and four other states.
The new pipeline, consisting of 42- and 30-inch pipe, is being built by four primary contractors: Henkels & McCoy Inc., Latex Construction Company Inc., Michels Corporation and Welded Construction. The expansion is projected to cost $3 billion.
According to Williams, the pipe—primarily mill- or yard-coated—will be installed via traditional trench construction, and welds will be coated in place. Inspectors will then electronically test the coating system as a whole and make any necessary repairs before the pipeline is lowered the rest of the way into the trench, and backfilled over.
Atlantic Sunrise has been in the works for three years. Last July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency questioned the project’s environmental impact statement issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a move that some viewed as a setback. But the plan received certification from FERC in February, just before commissioner Norman Bay resigned from the body.
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The Atlantic Sunrise expansion will involve stretches of 30- and 42-inch pipe.
FERC, which regulates interstate commerce in the energy industry, operated without a quorum from February until August, when chairman Neil Chatterjee and commissioner Robert Powelson were confirmed by the Senate to join remaining commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, a holdover from the Obama administration. President Donald J. Trump’s other FERC nominees, Kevin McIntyre and Richard Glick, have not yet been confirmed.
Atlantic Sunrise received the last of the necessary state permits earlier this month, but the pipeline does face at least one more hurdle: A lawsuit brought by a group of Catholic nuns whose plot of land would be divided by the construction.
The Adorers of the Blood of Christ brought the suit with support from local anti-pipeline activists on the grounds that a right-of-way for Williams across their plot of land constitutes a breach of religious freedom. The case is still pending in a federal court. The nuns also constructed a rudimentary chapel on the land where the pipeline is to be constructed, and plan to hold a vigil there in an attempt to stop the project.
Williams has said that the pending court case does not prevent it from moving forward with preliminary construction on the project.