Monthly Archives: March 2017

Quorum Remains Out of Reach as FERC Awaits Trump Nominees

March 8 2017
Natural Gas Intelligence

Opposition groups seeking rehearing requests on recently certificated natural gas pipelines don’t appear willing to sit idly by until FERC’s quorum is restored.

Attorneys representing a group of landowners in a filing Monday accused the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of depriving “citizens of their due process rights” through the agency’s “near uniform practice of issuing open ended tolling orders in response to requests for rehearing.”

The filing, a rehearing request and motion for stay, was submitted in opposition to FERC’s approval last month of Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC’s (Transco) Atlantic Sunrise expansion.

Similarly, lawyers for the Accokeek, Mattawoman, Piscataway Creeks Communities Council Inc. (AMP Creeks) wrote in a Feb. 10 rehearing request for Atlantic Sunrise that “a tolling order in response to this request will result in a denial of rehearing due to FERC’s lack of a quorum…AMP Creeks and its members will suffer irreparable harm if the project is implemented. It will therefore seek immediate review of the certificate order in the court of appeals if FERC issues a tolling order here.”

The Allegheny Defense Project, filing jointly with other groups, also submitted a rehearing request for Atlantic Sunrise on Feb. 10.

“FERC’s use of tolling orders in [Natural Gas Act] certificate proceedings has allowed project proponents to engage in extensive construction activities (and in some cases place facilities into service) before FERC addresses the issues raised in timely filed rehearing requests, thus effectively depriving parties of judicial review,” the groups wrote.

If FERC does not issue an order on a rehearing request within 30 days it is considered denied under law. A tolling order gives the Commission more time to reach a decision, and staff are currently authorized to issue tolling orders while FERC lacks a quorum.
FERC currently has two sitting commissioners after the departure of former Chairman Norman Bay early last month.

It’s common for environmentalists and landowner groups to challenge FERC’s pipeline certificate orders, and the agency has generally succeeded in the courts in such cases, Washington, DC-based analyst firm ClearView Energy Partners told clients this week. But the unusual situation presented by a two-member FERC unable to act on rehearings could increase the risk of challengers securing a stay, ClearView said, noting that a similar challenge was filed against the Atlantic Bridge expansion by the Town of Weymouth, MA.

“Given the potentially novel legal arguments posed by these parties, we will be watching to see whether any federal appellate court would grant a stay at least long enough to hear what we expect will be motions for preliminary injunction/stays on the pipeline’s construction,” ClearView analysts said. “How long such a stay might last is unclear. In the past, the courts have instituted very short stays (as little as a week) on natural gas pipeline construction as the bar for such judicial relief is high.

“Pipeline opponents to date have not been successful in securing stays before the Commission acts on rehearing, and therefore a petition for stay on these more recently approved projects may not fare better than earlier cases.”

For its part, Transco responded to the rehearing and stay requests filed against Atlantic Sunrise, telling FERC that a stay would unduly harm the operator, which expects to bring part of the 1.7 million Dth/d expansion online later this year.

“Despite the Commission’s well-informed, carefully crafted findings and determinations in its certificate order, the Movants, motivated by their views that any natural gas infrastructure is harmful and that environmental considerations outweigh all other public benefits, now request that the Commission enter a stay,” Transco wrote.

“…This stay motion fails to specifically identify any imminent irreparable harm, but rather is proffered as a premature, blanket stay request designed to delay any progress with respect to this certificated project.”

Montague says gas moratorium is resolvable

By MIRANDA DAVIS Greenfield Recorder Staff
Thursday, March 09, 2017

MONTAGUE MA,TURNERS FALLS — Montague town officials say Berkshire Gas Co.’s moratorium on new and expanded service can be quickly resolved by the company.

The town made this assertion in two testimonies filed in the Department of Public Utilities review of Berkshire’s Five-Year Forecast and Supply Plan.

“The solutions proposed by expert witnesses Kenji Takahashi of Synapse Energy Economics and John Rosenkranz of North Side Energy LLC would also be much less costly to implement than either of Berkshire’s two current proposals to end the moratorium,” town officials said in a press release Thursday.

The self-imposed moratorium is on the gas company expansion into its eastern service area, including Montague, Greenfield, Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately. Berkshire Gas imposed the moratorium because the utility said it had reached pipeline capacity.

Since then, the company’s filing with the state Department of Public Utilities has been narrowed to recommend two ideas: a new liquefied natural gas storage facility somewhere in its Franklin County service area, or an expansion of its distribution main between Greenfield and Tennessee Gas Pipeline interconnection in Southwick.

Montague was accepted as a full intervenor in the proceeding, which allows Montague to provide testimony and to be involved in other aspects of the review. The town can also present alternatives to Berkshire’s moratorium.

Chris Farrell, a spokesperson for Berkshire, said the company has received a copy of the testimony and is currently reviewing it.

Montague’s witnesses in the review approach both the supply and the demand sides of the problem, according to the town.

Takahasi recommends the company decrease its estimate of how much additional gas it needs by more accurately taking into account the energy-efficiency programs it is carrying out. He also recommends renegotiating contracts with “two large customers,” with the idea of having those customers switch to another fuel during peak demand times.

Rosenkranz recommends that Berkshire Gas upgrade a section of its Greenfield Feedline from Hatfield to Greenfield.

He said by replacing some of the 6-inch-diameter pipeline installed in 1959 with larger diameter pipe, or adding a parallel feedline along the same path, it would help serve more customers.

He, too, according to the town’s release, “recommends modifications to delivery arrangements with major customers that he says would alleviate pressure constraints at the northern end of the Greenfield line — a key issue behind the moratorium.”

According to the town, the two solutions its witnesses are proposing would cost substantially less than the current solutions proposed by Berkshire Gas.

Hearings on the moratorium will be on April 4 and 5 at the Department of Public Utilities in Boston.

Additional information from testimony filed by Montague on Wednesday:

• Demand-Side Analysis in Testiomy of Kenji Takahashi of Synapse Energy Economics

• Supply-Side Analysis in Testimony of John Rosenkranz of North Side Energy