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2018-01-12 / News

2018 Pipeline Update

What’s the latest behind the biggest pipeline projects around the region?
BY CHRIS MORELLI
Correspondent

Since the calendar has flipped to 2018, it’s probably a good time to take a look around at the pipeline situation along the East Coast.

There are several key pipeline battles involving landowners, environmentalists, states and the federal government.

With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of East Coast pipelines, their status and what lies ahead:

Name: Atlantic Coast

Length: 600 miles

Route: Northern West Virginia to eastern Virginia and North Carolina

Status: Approved by FERC; state permits pending

Atlantic Coast is a project conceived by four energy companies – Dominion Resources Inc., Duke Energy Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas Co. Inc. and Southern Company Gas – to deliver Mid- Atlantic shale gas to markets in Virginia and North Carolina.

In both North Carolina and Virginia, the project has been up for debate. In Virginia, the subject was a focal point of the tight governor’s race, captured by Democrat Ralph Northam. For the record, he refused to take a position on the project. However, at one time he was a supporter.

And while the project is supposed to stop just 12 miles short of the South Carolina border, it may extend into South Carolina, which could seriously delay the project.

Name: Atlantic Sunrise

Length: 183 miles and multiple expansions and upgrades

Route: Southern Pennsylvania to northern Pennsylvania and upgrades across East Coast network

Status: Approved by FERC; under construction

Atlantic Sunrise encompasses new construction in Pennsylvania and an array of upgrades along the existing Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC system that runs down the Eastern Seaboard to the Gulf Coast.

The $3 billion project has attracted the most pushback in Pennsylvania, where landowners, environmentalists and a group of Catholic nuns have led opposition. The Adorers of the Blood of Christ sued FERC over its approval of the pipeline, arguing that routing the line across their land violates their religious rights. A district court dismissed their claim, and it’s now on appeal.

Environmentalists have raised various other challenges to the project, including whether Pennsylvania regulators properly considered its impacts and whether FERC acted beyond its authority when it issued orders related to the pipeline without a quorum.

Atlantic Sunrise opponents had brief success earlier this month, securing a construction freeze. The victory was short-lived, however, and the freeze lasted only two days. The other challenges are pending, and additional lawsuits are expected.

Name: Constitution

Length: 126 miles

Route: Northeast Pennsylvania to central New York

Status: Company wants FERC to waive a state-issued water permit

Politics often play a significant role when it comes to pipeline construction and that is certainly the case with the Constitution pipeline. New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a track record for holding up a number of high-profile gas projects. The Constitution pipeline is one of them. William Cos. Inc., the lead sponsor of the project, is hopeful that the pipeline will get favorable treatment from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

FERC recently granted a construction permit for the pipeline, despite state regulators turning down a developer over concerns that the project would increase greenhouse gas emissions that contribute climate change. But that permit is hung up as state officials fight FERC’s authority in the area.

William Cos. Inc. wants to get started with construction on the nearly $700 million project. CEO Alan Armstrong has said the company is pressing FERC and the White House administration to overrule New York and get the ball rolling.

However, chances are that the pipeline won’t see the light of day until next year.

“(There’s) plenty of fight left in this dog, and I think we’re well-positioned for it,” Armstrong told analysts recently. “But we’ve got — we will have a fight on our hands, I suspect.”

Stay tuned.

Name: Mountain Valley

Length: 303 miles

Route: Northern West Virginia to southern Virginia

Status: Approved by FERC; state permits pending

The $3.5 billion Mountain Valley project is being developed by Pittsburgh- based EQT Corp. and partners to carry shale gas from West Virginia to markets in Virginia. The project has been controversial in Virginia, with pushback from environmentalists and landowner groups, and is the subject of a legal challenge that says the use of eminent domain for the pipeline violates landowners’ constitutional rights and the Natural Gas Act.

The project is also notable for an unusual situation in West Virginia, where developers first secured state water permits only to see them withdrawn by the state Department of Environmental Protection in response to charges that the state’s review was inadequate. State officials initially said they intended to review the permits but instead opted to waive their right to regulate the project’s water quality impacts, a decision that shifts the responsibility onto the Army Corps of Engineers.

When the pipeline was approved by FERC, it received a split vote, with one of the three voting commissioners dissenting on the grounds that the project was similar to the Atlantic Coast project and could potentially be combined with it to reduce their combined environmental impacts.

Name: Nexus

Length: 255 miles

Route: Eastern Ohio to southeastern Michigan

Status: Approved by FERC; under construction

The $2 billion Nexus pipeline in Ohio is under way. In December, work crews began carving a path through Stark County fields and woods to make way for work crews. That was followed by signage throughout several townships. According to Nexus officials, work will continue until the pipeline is placed into service later in 2018.

The approximate 255-mile NEXUS pipeline begins near Hanoverton in Ohio’s Columbiana County and will connect to existing natural gas pipelines in Michigan.

Name: Northern Access

Length: 99 miles and associated infrastructure

Route: Northwest Pennsylvania to western New York

Status: Company appealing New York permit denial at 2nd Circuit, at FERC and in state court

The future of the Northern Access Pipeline is still very much up in the air more than two years after being announced.

The project was first introduced by National Fuel in 2015. Things got dramatic in 2017, as opponents and those in favor of the plan battled. The eventual goal is to install nearly 100 miles of pipeline between McKean County (Pa.) and Niagara County.

The $455 million project started 2017 off in a strong position, after receiving approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission almost a year ago. FERC said the project will meet a “new demand” and that the impact to nearby landowners and surrounding communities will be “limited.”

National Fuel addressed the situation in a news release.

“National Fuel will invest nearly a half billion dollars to construct the facilities necessary to transport this critical source of natural gas to the Northeast U.S. and eastern Canadian markets,” said Ronald Kraemer, senior vice president, National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation, and president, Empire Pipeline, both subsidiaries of National Fuel Gas Company.

Name: PennEast

Length: 120 miles

Route: Northeast Pennsylvania to central New Jersey

Status: Project has been halted; in limbo

The PennEast pipeline was first proposed in 2014. The $1.2 billion project would connect gas fields in the Marcellus Shale to New Jersey. Jersey relies heavily on gas, getting more power from gas than any other fuel. However, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie single- handedly halted the project, when he blocked the project’s application for a water certificate, which is required under federal law.

In late December, FERC announced that it will review agency policies for approving interstate natural gas pipeline projects. That could have a serious impact on the PennEast project, which would have a 36-inch-wide pipeline stretch 120 miles from Dallas Township, Pa., to Pennington, N.J.

Right now, PennEast officials are in wait-and-see mode. .

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