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Senators press FERC to pull Atlantic Bridge approval until agency regains quorum

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Senators press FERC to pull Atlantic Bridge approval until agency regains quorum

U.S. Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, both Democrats, urged FERC to rescind its approval of Spectra Energy Corp's Atlantic Bridge natural gas pipeline expansion project until the commission's quorum is restored.

FERC on Jan. 25 authorized the project, which will provide approximately 132,705 Dth/d of additional firm transportation to New England and Canadian markets. Former FERC Chairman Norman Bay on Jan. 26 announced his resignation, which will leave the commission with just two commissioners as of Feb. 3.

"Given the announced resignation of former Chairman Bay following the approval of this pipeline project, we ask that FERC immediately rescind the order authorizing Spectra's Atlantic Bridge Project until a new quorum can be reconstituted at the commission," Markey and Warren said in a letter to acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur. "Only by rescinding this pipeline approval until that time can the American people be assured that their voices will be properly heard and that this pipeline will not be permitted to go forward while opponents are silenced."

Following Bay's announcement, LaFleur said FERC "is working to get as many orders out as we can in the time we have left with a quorum" and is looking at ways it can expand the authority it has delegated to staff.

But the senators say opponents of the project could still be kept from challenging the commission's approval order. "While FERC has delegated to its senior staff the ability to complete a number of functions in the absence of a quorum under a 1993 order, this does not appear to apply to contested proceedings, as would be the case for a rehearing request for the Atlantic Bridge pipeline project by opponents," Markey and Warren said.

FERC's order granted authorization for the Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC and Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline LLC project, which involves new pipeline and compression facilities in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The expansion project will allow for additional gas supplies to flow north from Algonquin's receipt points in New Jersey and New York and will enable Maritimes to provide 106,276 Dth/d of firm transportation service from Massachusetts. The project is estimated to cost about $451.8 million. (FERC docket CP16-9)