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Groups fight FERC court petition for Southeast Market Pipelines gas projects

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Groups fight FERC court petition for Southeast Market Pipelines gas projects

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups asked a court to deny an attempt by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and pipeline developers to give the commission enough time to put in place new authorizations for the three pieces of the Southeast Market Pipelines gas transportation projects.

The Sierra Club and its allies on Feb. 16 responded to motions FERC and the project developers filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

FERC and the developers want the court to hold off on issuing a mandate that would put into effect an August 2017 order that vacated the approvals of the components of the Southeast Market Pipelines complex: the $3.2 billion Sabal Trail Transmission LLC pipeline, a joint project of Enbridge Inc., NextEra Energy Inc. and Duke Energy Corp. that would eventually bring up to 1.1 Bcf/d of gas to central Florida; the $459.8 million Hillabee expansion project on Williams Partners LP's Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC system; and NextEra's $537.3 million Florida Southeast Connection project.

Canceled project authorizations could mean the pipeline companies would have to cease current operations and construction of additional stages. FERC authorized the three parts in June 2017, and the early phases are in service.

FERC has options to keep the pipeline system running, including asking the court for a delay of the mandate or issuing new certificates or emergency certificates. FERC asked the court for a 45-day stay of the mandate to give the agency more time to issue a new certificate, and the pipeline developers asked for a 90-day stay to avoid disruption of gas transportation service.

In their response, the environmental groups said FERC and the developers have not shown the court there is a good reason to put off the effects of its decision. They argued that there would be no interruption to gas transportation service. They also said a stay would undermine the court's order and asked the court to immediately issue the mandate. (U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit docket 16-1329)

D.C. Circuit judges vacated the project approvals in an August 2017 decision, upheld by the full court Jan. 31. The next step would be the mandate. In the August 2017 decision, the court said FERC should have analyzed greenhouse gas emissions from downstream power plants as part of an environmental review of the gas pipeline project. It required FERC to add this analysis.

The commission has issued a final supplement to the environmental review in response to the court's directive and is in position to soon issue new certificates. (FERC dockets CP15-17, et al.)