FERC, Delaware Riverkeeper Skirmish Over Transco’s Leidy Project

Leidy SoutheastBy David Bradley, Natural Gas Intelligence

Preliminary work on Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC’s (Transco) proposed Leidy Southeast expansion, which would relieve capacity constraints in the Marcellus Shale while serving local distribution companies along the Atlantic Seaboard, appear to be on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN).

In documents filed at FERC Wednesday, DRN said it had filed a petition of writ in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking an emergency stay of a Commission notice to proceed with tree felling activities “to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits” of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Dec. 18 approval of the project [CP13-551] (see Daily GPI, Dec. 18, 2014).

The court ordered FERC to file a response to DRN’s petition by 4 p.m. Friday, and DRN to file a reply by noon Monday.

On Thursday, FERC issued an order denying another request for stay of its December approval, that was filed by DRN Feb. 12, saying commissioners had concluded “that justice does not require a stay.” FERC found that DRN had not demonstrated that it would suffer irreparable injury in the absence of a stay; provided no evidence to support “its vague claims regarding property values;” and was inaccurate in its claims that Transco has not obtained all required federal authorizations to begin the project.

“As a general matter, we do not favor stays, which can result in regulatory uncertainty,” FERC said in the order.

Last year, in a case led by DRN, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that FERC “impermissibly segmented the environmental review” of Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s Northeast Upgrade Project and remanded that case to FERC “for further consideration of segmentation and cumulative impacts” (see Shale Daily, June 6, 2014). Environmental groups had argued that FERC had violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it segmented its review of the project, giving no consideration to it in conjunction with three other closely related projects, and claimed that FERC failed to provide a meaningful analysis of the cumulative impacts of the projects.

“Approval of the Southeast Leidy Line is a clear violation of the federal court ruling the Delaware Riverkeeper Network secured July 2014 that instructed FERC to stop engaging in segmentation of pipeline projects, the breaking up of larger projects into smaller pieces for review and approval,” said Maya van Rossum of Delaware Riverkeeper.

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) tabled the docket for the Southeast Leidy Pipeline Wednesday “to allow additional time for review of comments received.” DRN said it had delivered comments in opposition to the project at a DRBC public hearing a day earlier, “supported by members of the public.”

Earlier this month, FERC gave Transco permission to begin partial path service on the proposed Leidy Southeast expansion, which would create an additional 525,000 Dth/d of capacity from Transco’s Leidy line in Pennsylvania as far south as Choctaw County, AL (see Shale Daily, March 3). The project, which is expected to cost $607 million, includes construction of about 30 miles of 42-inch diameter pipeline looping in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the net addition of 71,900 hp at four existing compressor stations, and minor modifications to meter stations and associated facilities. The target in-service date for the project is Dec. 1 (see Shale Daily, Aug. 12, 2014; Oct. 2, 2013).

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