by Jeremiah Shelor, Natural Gas Intelligencer
May 9, 2017
Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC (TGP) is pushing back against efforts to stall progress on its Connecticut Expansion Project [CP14-529], telling FERC that an opposition group’s motion for a stay of construction is based on “hyperbolic” and “unsupported” claims.
In a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission late last week, TGP asked to respond to arguments submitted against the Connecticut Expansion by the Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network (MassPLAN) and the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office.
Last month, FERC granted TGP a notice to proceed with tree clearing and construction for the Connecticut Expansion, a 72,100 Dth/d project consisting of three pipeline loops in New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut totaling 13.42 miles.
TGP told FERC that it needs to finish tree clearing this month in order to stay on track to bring the project online in time for the winter 2017-18 heating season. Three New England local distribution companies have subscribed to the Connecticut Expansion’s full capacity.
TGP said MassPLAN’s claims that the group will suffer “irreparable harm” from tree-clearing should be denied since “the Commission has found already in this proceeding that such tree cutting does not rise to the level of irreparable harm” meriting a stay. This is partly because the Massachusetts portion of the project is located on or next to existing pipeline rights-of-way, TGP noted.
Further, a delay would harm TGP and its customers, the operator told FERC.
“The construction schedule for the Project, which has already been delayed for more than a year, has been crafted to comply with various environmental permits and clearances that allow only limited time windows to perform certain critical construction activities,” TGP wrote. With work already underway, “any delay would have serious repercussions.
“Tennessee must complete tree-clearing activities as soon as possible…Ensuring completion of tree-clearing by the May 31 deadline will also allow Tennessee to cut trees in a manner that maximizes protection of migratory bird habitat and meets federal permitting requirements.”
TGP also responded to claims that FERC’s Director of the Office of Energy Projects (OEP) did not have authority to issue the notice to proceed with construction.
Opposition groups have pursued a number of pipeline challenges highlighting the Commission’s current lack of a quorum. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) last month called on acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur to halt the Connecticut Expansion, pointing to a rehearing request submitted a year earlier, when FERC still had a quorum.
“For FERC to allow” TGP to proceed with construction “when it lacks a quorum and, therefore, cannot act on the rehearing request, is profoundly troubling,” the senators wrote.
TGP noted that the Commission has delegated authority to the OEP director to oversee implementation of the certificateorderfor the expansion, in addition to powers delegated to the director through regulation.
“Such delegations were properly made when the Commission had a quorum and are still in effect today,” TGP wrote.
An end to FERC’s quorumless stretch is in sight after the Trump administration officially announced late Monday that it will nominate Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to fill two incomplete terms left by former commissioners. Chatterjee and Powelson had been rumored in connection with the vacancies.