Segmentation – A Pipeline Loophole

pipesIn 2014 the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) successfully won a lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The lawsuit involved the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s (TGP) Northeast Upgrade Project (NEUP).

The NEUP project involved the interdependence of its 300 Line upgrade project components. TGP tried to hide this interdependence to avoid critical environmental regulation and oversight.

Avoiding interdependence and thus finding a loophole by segmenting projects eliminates the need to look at cumulative impacts of the project will have. Segmenting projects eliminates the need to take existing pipelines and known future projects. It puts the specific pipeline in a vacuum.

In a decision issued June 6, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, ruled that the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the NJ Sierra Club and New Jersey Highlands Coalition were correct in their legal challenge to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s Northeast Upgrade Project and ordered additional analysis and review.

The Court stated: “On the record before us, we hold that in conducting its environmental review of the Northeast Project without considering the other connected, closely related, and interdependent projects on the Eastern Leg, FERC impermissibly segmented the environmental review in violation of NEPA. We also find that FERC’s EA is deficient in its failure to include any meaningful analysis of the cumulative impacts of the upgrade projects. We therefore grant the petition for review and remand the case to the Commission for further consideration of segmentation and cumulative impacts.” “On the record before us, we find that FERC acted arbitrarily in deciding to evaluate the environment effects of the Northeast Project independent of the other connected action on the Eastern Leg.”

Logic would dictate if one pipeline has an impact that the impact would increase with the addition of more pipelines. In other words there would be a cumulative impact.

LEIDY LOOPhole

In 2013, Williams Partners filed an application with the FERC for the Leidy Southeast expansion for building sections of parallel lines in Luzerne and Monroe counwilliams leidy hubties and Somerset, Hunterdon and Mercer counties in New Jersey and add additional compressor engines. FERC approved Transco’s request in December. Tree-clearing was supposed to begin last week after FERC issued an approval on March 9, 2015.

The expansion would add more than half a billion cubic feet per day to the pipeline’s capacity.

The Leidy is a segment of the Williams Transco.

On its webpage, Williams Partners identifies the Leidy and Atlantic Sunrise as an EXPANSION of their Transco pipeline.

Pennsylvania: (emphasis added)

  • Leidy Southeast – Transco pipeline expansion designed to transport growing domestic natural gas supplies to markets along the Atlantic Seaboard.
  • Atlantic Sunrise – Transco pipeline expansion designed to transport growing domestic natural gas supplies to markets along the Atlantic Seaboard.

DRN asserts FERC approval of the Leidy Southeast Expansion is segmentation of the project and therefore based on the December court decision it is illegal.

“The FERC unlawfully segmented its environmental evaluation of Transco’s pipeline construction activities, failing to evaluate the full environmental consequences of the segmented projects”, the DRN attorney Aaron Stemplewicz wrote.

In a Friday (3/13/2015) afternoon response, FERC’s attorneys argued the situation is different this time because Leidy Southeast “is not dependent upon, or physically, functionally or financially connected” with other pending Transco projects, such as Atlantic Sunrise, in the same way the Tennessee projects were. It also argued its review of cumulative impacts satisfies the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires environmental assessments.

Work on the Leidy Southeast Expansion is on hold pending a court decision.

Meanwhile, in the wings are other projects by Williams Partners and PennEast which will interconnect to the Transco which would utilize existing Transco infrastructure.

©2015 by Dory Hippauf

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