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Pipelines push for FERC approval before Feb. 3 deadline

Companies with pending natural gas infrastructure projects are pushing FERC to issue certificate orders before Commissioner Norman Bay's resignation on Feb. 3 likely leaves the commission unable to issue such orders.

Spectra Energy Corp and DTE Energy Co.'s NEXUS Gas Transmission LLC, Williams Cos. Inc.'s Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC, and affiliates National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. and Empire Pipeline Inc. submitted requests asking FERC to grant Natural Gas Act certificate authorization for the NEXUS pipeline project, the Atlantic Sunrise project and the Northern Access 2016 project, respectively. The projects have all received a final environmental review from FERC staff and are awaiting a final decision from the commission.

If certificate orders are not issued prior to Bay's resignation, the projects might have to wait months until FERC regains a quorum, which could have even larger impacts on construction schedules. All three projects cited construction and preparatory activities such as tree clearing that must be performed within certain dates, some dictated by environmental mitigation measures and some by the projects' in-service deadlines.

NEXUS, which submitted a letter to FERC on Jan. 27, received a positive final environmental impact statement from commission staff on Nov. 30, 2016. The NEXUS project would transport 1.5 MMDth/d of gas from the Appalachian Basin to markets in northern Ohio, southeastern Michigan and the Dawn Hub in Canada. The project's current in-service date is listed as Nov. 1.

Transco's Atlantic Sunrise project, which would transport 1.7 MMDth/d of gas, received a positive final EIS on December 30, 2016. The company had already submitted one request for FERC to approve the project before mid-February when it decided to urge the commission again Jan. 27, after Bay announced his plans to resign.

National Fuel and Empire sent FERC a letter Jan. 27 asking the commission to approve their Northern Access 2016 project. The project received a positive environmental assessment July 27, 2016. The project would deliver an additional 350,000 Dth/d of supplies from the Marcellus Shale to U.S. northeast and Canadian markets.

A group that opposes the NEXUS pipeline, Communities for Safe and Sustainable Energy, attempted to remind FERC that it cannot issue a decision on some of the projects. After an EIS or environmental assessment has been published, other federal agencies and stakeholders have 90 days to review and submit comments to the commission. For NEXUS, this means the earliest the commission can issue a certificate order is Feb. 28, the group said, while Atlantic Sunrise would have to wait until at least March 30.

Another group, Coalition to Reroute Nexus, also asked FERC to refrain from approving NEXUS. The group said NEXUS has been working to acquire easements from landowners, and the group is preparing to file litigation. (FERC dockets CP15-115, CP15-138, CP16-22)