Constitution Pipeline sues to overturn DEC’s water-permit denial

Constitution Pipeline LLC has sued in two federal courts to overturn the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) denial of a water-quality certificate required for the proposed natural gas pipeline’s construction (OGJ Online, Apr. 25, 2016).

Constitution filed an appeal on May 16 with the US Appeals Court for the Second Circuit. It contends, among other things, that the refusal is arbitrary and capricious and constitutes an impermissible challenge to the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which was issued to the company in December 2014.

The company also filed an action with US District Court for Northern New York seeking a declaration that the State of New York’s authority to exercise permitting jurisdiction over certain other environmental matters is preempted by federal law.

Constitution is owned by subsidiaries of Williams Partners LP, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas Co., and WGL Holdings Inc. “Upon its review of the evidence, we believe the court will agree that this permit denial was arbitrary and unjustified and improperly relies on the same failed arguments that the DEC made during the FERC certificate proceeding regarding the pipeline route and stream crossings,” they said in a joint statement.

DEC’s allegation that it did not receive the necessary information is inaccurate as demonstrated by extensive and comprehensive technical materials submitted by Constitution for the record, the statement said. “We believe this allegation was intended to distract stakeholders from the application of a fair technical and regulatory review of the merits of Constitution’s application for a water quality certification,” it said.

The project’s sponsors said they are asking the federal district court to overturn “this veiled attempt by the state to usurp the federal government’s authority and essentially “veto” a FERC-certificated energy infrastructure project.”

The state environmental commission’s denial of the 401 Water Quality Certification further delays the project’s potential to help facilitate Leatherstocking Gas Co.’s local gas service to homes and businesses in Southern New York, Constitution separately added.

Constitution’s legal challenges came a few days after New York Atty. Gen. Eric T. Schneiderman (D) asked FERC to investigate whether Constitution’s construction activities along portions of its right-of-way in the Empire State violated federal law, regulations and authorizations (OGJ Online, May 16, 2016).

Contact Nick Snow at

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