Two States, Two Pipeline Projects, Two Worlds Apart

delaware riverkeeper - Jim Willis reports

Jim Willis
Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)


The progress and impending conclusions of two pipeline projects in New York and Pennsylvania have been monitored by Marcellus Drilling News with big reveals.

New York’s corrupted Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is running scared. For 19 months the DEC has intentionally delayed granting a tiny, 9-mile spur Millennium Pipeline wants to build in Orange County, NY the necessary Federal 401 Water Quality Certification it needs. Millennium took the DEC to federal court, but the court refused to get involved, telling Millennium that if the DEC is delaying, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) can jump in, tell New York it used up it’s time and authorize the project to proceed. So, that’s what Millennium did. They asked FERC to act.

Sensing they are now in a death spiral and will lose control over not only the Millennium project, but also other projects like the Constitution Pipeline and Northern Access projects the DEC has been blocking, the DEC responded and asked FERC to wait until August 30th before granting the certificate; so the DEC could grant it (or not) themselves.

So, the DEC held a public hearing Wednesday night. A sham. Kabuki theater. It was the DEC going through the motions before they get off their rear-ends and grant the certificate they could have granted more than a year ago. The public hearing in Wawayanda, NY did not disappoint, with insane anti-fossil fuelers parading before the microphones and cameras, predicting the end of the world if this 9-mile pipeline to feed a gas-fired power plant gets built, according to the Times-Herald-Record:

More than 200 people filled the Paramount Theatre Wednesday evening for a public comment session held by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The session, where more than 80 signed up to speak, was to gather comments on Millennium Pipeline Company’s 16-inch-in-diameter Valley Lateral Project, a $57.3 million pipeline that would travel northeast from Westtown to the $900 million Competitive Power Ventures’ Valley Energy Center, which is under construction on Route 6 in Wawayanda.

At the Paramount, activists often talked about the pipeline interchangeably with the CPV plant, fracking and the impacts of pollution and greenhouse gases. Protestors, some from New York City and others local, arrived early and waved signs that read “Toxic” and “Governor Cuomo Stop CPV No Fracked Gas.” Their concerns ranged from health impact, to climate change and the safety of the plant.

Pramilla Malick, who leads the group Protect Orange County, wore a red sash that said “Stop CPV” and aimed her comments at the governor’s office…

But also present on Wednesday were union members wearing bright orange T-shirts that said “Valley Lateral Project Yes!”

Tim Muller of Walden, from the Operating Engineers Local 825, urged the DEC to approve the pipeline…

The hearing Wednesday was one of the last regulatory hurdles for the project, which needs permits from the state DEC to begin. While federal regulators have already given the green light to the pipeline, they also need the state DEC to grant a key Water Quality Certification permit to the pipeline, as well as permits to allow it to cross wetlands and streams.

Without the pipeline, the CPV’s natural-gas fired power plant would be without permanent fuel.

Millennium Pipeline spokeswoman Michelle Hook said she couldn’t put an estimate on when the project could start and that the project has been drawn out longer than the company anticipated because of challenged at the state level. She said Millennium has done everything possible to minimize environmental impact and to accommodate the DEC.

If you want a good laugh, look at pictures from the event here. Many of the antis in the audience, as you’ll see, are old hippies.

One of the speakers at the hearing was James Cromwell, Hollywood star with a second home in Orange County near the location of the gas-fired electric plant now under construction. The Millennium spur will feed the power plant, hence Cromwell is against the pipeline, because he’s against the power plant. Cromwell has been protesting the CPV plant for the past few years. Recently, he was sentenced to jail for seven days for refusing to pay a fine related to his illegal protest activities. He was released after only three days–favoritism for rich, famous white guys.

Meanwhile, across the border in Pennsylvania, the courts have cleared most of the obstacles to starting construction of the much bigger Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project.

Williams and their Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project are just a few properties away from having easements for all of the properties they need in Pennsylvania, thanks to a judge in the U.S. Middle District of PA and his decision this week. Judge Matthew Brann gave Transco Pipeline (the pipeline getting extended with the Atlantic Sunrise project) access to seven hold-out properties in Lebanon, Northumberland, Columbia and Luzerne counties. There are still a couple of holdouts left in Lancaster and Columbia counties, cases which are in a different court.

Staking of workspace boundaries will begin in 10 days, on August 14th. Construction, things like clearing and grading the right-of-way, will begin in mid-September. Obviously Williams believes the state DEP is about to grant the Federal 401 Water Quality Certification for the project, which they still need. The good news is that the courts are backing Atlantic Sunrise, and work on the pipeline will begin in days.

A Texas pipeline construction company has all the easements it needs to begin constructing the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline in counties within the U.S. Middle District.

That was achieved Thursday when Judge Matthew W. Brann gave Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Co. access to seven properties, including one in Lebanon County. The others were in Northumberland, Columbia and Luzerne counties.

Other easements were obtained through negotiation or by a similar ruling Brann issued in March.

Transco still needs access to several properties in Lancaster County, which is in the court’s eastern district. A judge there has yet to issue his ruling.

Brann made his ruling following a day-long hearing during which David Sztroin, project manager said staking of work space boundaries for the pipeline project is scheduled to begin Aug. 14.

The staking will take place along the 127-mile long Central Penn South line between Lancaster and Columbia counties and the 58-mile long Central Penn North line between Columbia and Susquehanna counties, he said.

Clearing and grading the right of way is scheduled to begin in mid-September, he said. The goal is to have the pipeline in service by next July but that will not occur unless all the required easements are obtained, Sztroin said.

Two permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection and one from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission still are needed before construction can begin, he said.

They are expected to be issued by the end of the month, he said…


FERC in February issued a certificate of public convenience for the $3 billion project that will increase the capacity to transport natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

Under the FERC order, Transco has until Feb. 3, 2020, to complete the project.

Editor’s Note: I merged these two stories from Jim because the contrast is so revealing. There are wacko fractivists opposing both, but notice the accommodation they get in New York versus how things go in Pennsylvania and Federal court. Pennsylvania DEP ought to be acting a lot faster and holds too many redundant hearings in my judgment, but at least they move and there is a business-like auto to the whole process.

There is less politicization, less game-playing by state government and less appeasement of fractivists, old hippy types or otherwise. New York DEC has been tainted by a corrupt governor’s politics whereas, in Pennsylvania, things still operate more or less professionally (despite an incompetent governor). What’s wrong with New York? It’s captive to urban politics and a corrupt state of mind where nothing—nothing at all—is at it seems; where there are always other factors at work, none of them good.  

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