Feds Reject Constitution Pipeline Petition

Pipeline Near Homes
Pipeline construction near homes.
Credit: David Jones

In a welcome move, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) yesterday rejected Constitution Pipeline’s petition to overturn a previous New York State rejection of the fracked gas pipeline. This is one more nail in the coffin of this flawed project. 

Constitution claimed that New York had waived its right to reject the pipeline—which the state did in April 2016—because of delay in reviewing the project. In yesterday’s decision, FERC, which oversees the permitting of gas pipelines, maintained that given Constitution’s withdrawal and resubmission of its application, New York State acted appropriately because the timeline of review had shifted.

The Constitution Pipeline, which is backed by subsidiaries of Williams, Cabot and other fracking and pipeline companies, was proposed to originate in Pennsylvania and run for over 120 miles, disturbing dozens communities and hundreds of waterways. In New York alone, the pipeline would have harmed over 85 trout streams, 85 acres of wetlands and cleared nearly 500 acres of forest.

In its April 2016 decision, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied water quality certification to the pipeline in accordance with section 401 of the Clean Water Act, effectively preventing the pipeline from being constructed within the state. New York stated that it denied certification because Constitution Pipeline failed to provide sufficient information demonstrating that the pipeline would comply with New York State water quality standards.

Constitution challenged the state’s decision in federal court, but lost that case this past August. That decision reaffirmed states’ power to stop dangerous natural gas pipelines within their borders. NRDC, representing a coalition of groups including itself Water Defense, Earthworks, PennEnvironment, Peconic Baykeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, filed an amicus brief in that case in support of the state’s decision. The company’s filed its appeal to FERC in the wake of the federal court’s decision.

Constitution can request a rehearing from FERC, and could appeal the agency's decision in federal court, but this is a decisive victory for all that have been fighting this project in Pennsylvania and New York. NRDC and our allies will continue to ensure that this project is never built.