Challenge to NJ Pipeline Won't Leave a Dent

     (CN) - Environmental groups do not have standing to challenge approval of a natural gas pipeline extending from New Jersey to lower Manhattan, the D.C. Circuit ruled.
     The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted Spectra Energy Corp. a certificate of public convenience to expand its existing natural gas pipeline in Connecticut and New Jersey, and to extend a new pipeline from New Jersey into lower Manhattan.
     Three environment groups, NO Gas Pipeline, Sierra Club, and Food & Water Watch, filed for review of the certificate, alleging that the commission's approval violated environmental regulations.
     They assert that the pipeline will release toxins into the air, may do significant damage in event of a fire, and could be a prime target for terrorists.
     Jersey City also petitioned for review, claiming that the commission's financial structure made it biased in favor of the pipeline companies.
     Finding Tuesday, however, that both the environmental groups and the city lack standing, the D.C. Circuit dismissed all the petitions.
     "Environmental petitioners, or at least some of them, submit declarations attesting that their members are 'injured by the certainty that radon levels in the residences will increase once gas from sources that have higher radon levels ... than currently supplied gas begins to flow through [the proposed] pipelines into their homes,'" Judge David Sentelle wrote for a three-judge panel. "This will not carry petitioners' burden of establishing standing."
     These injuries are projected, and only speculative, given that they depend on use of a high radon gas as the predominant source of the gas that the pipeline will transport without dilution, the 11-page opinion states.
     Jersey City's petition meanwhile does not stem from commission's administrative ruling, the court found.
     "Although petitioner claims to be an aggrieved party, it has not demonstrated how it has been injured and indeed does not challenge any part of FERC's ruling either as to its reasoning, its findings, or any decision in the administrative proceeding," Sentelle wrote.
     Rather, its claims challenge the commission's funding under the Budget Act, over which the appeals court does not have original jurisdiction.
     "The NGA [Natural Gas Act] gives us jurisdiction to review orders in proceedings under that Act, not claims unanchored in pipeline proceedings but arising under the Budget Act," the decision concludes. "We have no jurisdiction."