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Opponents, customers fight over air impact of Transco's NY-area expansion

New Jersey stakeholders said a favorable draft environmental report for Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC's Northeast Supply Enhancement natural gas transportation project came up short on air quality and other environmental issues. Project customers said the expansion would actually improve air quality.

The New Jersey township of South Brunswick pointed out its concerns to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on May 14. The FERC draft environmental impact statement suffered from "major gaps" of information on pipeline safety, air quality, water resources and geology, the township said. The township's letter was supported by the Eastern Environmental Law Center, which has asked the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to deny certain permits.

The township said Transco needs to improve its plan to reduce air emissions. "It is important that the lack of specificity and potential redundancy of Transco's proposed mitigation options be thoroughly addressed, including sufficient detail on specific emissions reductions expected," an analyst for the law center wrote.

On the other side of the debate, two National Grid USA companies that signed up as project customers said the expansion will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower other air pollutant levels in the New York City and Long Island areas. The New York gas utilities entered into 15-year contracts for the project's capacity to meet projected demand in their service areas. The project would deliver up to an extra 400,000 Dth/d of gas through parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. National Grid estimated peak day gas demand in those territories will increase by over 10% due to continuing conversions of oil-fired heating systems to run on natural gas and increased demand from new construction customers.

"Over an assumed 15-year life of the new gas heating equipment installed, the CO2 emission savings from converting 8,000 residential and commercial customers from fuel oil to natural gas are equivalent to removing nearly 500,000 cars from the road for one year," the National Grid units said in a May 14 letter.

Along with South Brunswick and the Eastern Environmental Law Center, pipeline opposition groups from New Jersey have protested the expansion over environmental and economic concerns. In April, New York State denied a Clean Water Act Section 401 permit due to information missing from the environmental review.

The project would expand Transco's onshore interstate gas transmission system in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as its offshore transmission system in New Jersey and New York. Transco, a Williams Partners LP company, applied for the project on March 27, 2017, and expects to begin operations by the 2019-2020 winter season. (FERC docket CP17-101)