3rd Cir. Gives Green Light for Pipeline Upgrade

     (CN) — Environmentalists cannot block a pipeline expansion that will run from Pennsylvania to New York City, the Third Circuit ruled Monday.
     The Delaware Riverkeeper Network sued the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation sued the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in now-consolidated cases.
     Both actions challenge the Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s grant of permits allowing Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, or Transco, to expand a portion of the Leidy Line, which connects gas wells in central Pennsylvania with the main Transcontinental pipeline, a 10,000-mile natural gas pipeline that runs from South Texas to New York City.
     Both states reviewed Transco’s proposal for potential water quality impacts and found that it met both state and federal water quality requirements.
     A federal judge ruled in favor of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Environmental Protection, or PADEP and NJDEP, respectively.
     The Third Circuit affirmed Monday.
     “NJDEP not only considered but also acted upon alternatives, in direct contrast to the Foundation’s allegations. Adoption of alternatives reduced open water and wetland disturbance by 38 percent for the Pleasant Run Loop and 48 percent for the Skillman Loop, according to an NJDEP analysis,” Judge Jane Richards Roth said, writing for the three-judge panel.
     New Jersey found that the pipeline project would not jeopardize the habitat of the endangered barred owl or red-shouldered hawk, but imposed conditions to protect the endangered wood turtle, Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat.
     The Third Circuit also upheld Pennsylvania’s decision to allow Transco to begin clearing trees before it had completed its environmental assessment.
     “The Riverkeeper is incorrect in assuming that tree-clearing is implicated by PADEP’s substantive water quality determinations: the Army Corps of Engineers stated that the tree-clearing activity for which Transco sought authorization would not trigger the need for permits under the Clean Water Act,” Roth wrote. “[The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC] designated the tree-clearing activity as ‘pre-construction activity,’ while FERC’s certificate requires a water quality certification only for ‘construction activity.'”
     In 2014, the Delaware Riverkeeper won a similar lawsuit against Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co’s project to upgrade its 300 Line, which runs from Pennsylvania to Mahwah, N.J.

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