New York State’s DEC denies water permit for Constitution Pipeline

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied a water-quality certificate required for construction of the proposed Constitution natural gas pipeline, saying it failed to meet the Empire State’s water-quality standards.

The state’s approval was a condition under a US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission final environmental review of the proposed 124-mile, 30-in. system from northeastern Pennsylvania to existing transmission systems in Schoharie County, NY (OGJ Online, Oct. 27, 2014).

DEC received reports that trees have been cut already along the project’s right-of-way in New York “near streams and directly on the banks of some streams, and in one instance has resulted in trees and brush being deposited directly in a stream, partially damming it,” John Ferguson, the agency’s chief permit administrator, said in an Apr. 22 letter to Constitution’s Houston headquarters.

Such activity, if not properly controlled, can affect a water resource’s best use severely, Ferguson said.

The letter also noted that Constitution proposed 99 miles of new ROW construction in New York state, rather than co-locating it on an existing New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) Interstate-88 access area. It said DEC asked the project’s sponsor to analyze other routes that could have avoided or minimized impacts to an extensive group of water resources, but Constitution failed to do so.

“Under the project’s proposal, many of the streams to be crossed present unique and sensitive ecological conditions that may be significantly impacted by construction and jeopardize best usages…. Impacts to these streams are exacerbated as the cumulative negative effects of multiple crossings are added,” Ferguson said.

Requested burial analysis

In an accompanying public announcement of its action, DEC said it repeatedly asked Constitution to provide a comprehensive and site-specific analysis of depth for pipeline burial to mitigate the project's environmental impact, but the company refused, supplying only a limited burial depth analysis for 21 of the 250 New York streams. The project’s sponsors have 30 days to request a public hearing on the denial, Ferguson said.

Constitution is owned by subsidiaries of Williams Partners LP, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas Co., and WGL Holdings Inc.

In Washington, an American Petroleum Institute official called the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) rejection of the project’s water-quality certificate application a clear example of politics coming before the interests of US workers and consumers. “This decision will cost the state thousands of jobs and is an assault on families and businesses,” API Executive Director for Market Development Martin J. Durbin said.

He said, “This region needs robust and reliable energy infrastructure built to supply the clean, reliable and affordable natural gas from the nearby Marcellus shale to fuel their communities. Unfortunately for those who have said they want the jobs and economic benefits the Constitution Pipeline represents, the Cuomo administration has placed politics over the interests of workers and consumers.”

DEC’s action came a day after Kinder Morgan Inc. and its Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. subsidiary canceled their proposed Northeast Energy Direct gas pipeline project because they were not able to get enough commitments from potential customers (OGJ Online, Apr. 21, 2016).

Contact Nick Snow at

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