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Sierra Club asks FERC to reconsider permit waiver for National Fuel expansion


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Sierra Club asks FERC to reconsider permit waiver for National Fuel expansion

The Sierra Club requested a rehearing of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decision allowing National Fuel Gas Co. subsidiaries to circumvent a New York state agency and push forward with a $455 million natural gas pipeline expansion that will carry Northeast gas to markets in New York, New England, the Midwest and Canada.

On Sept. 5, the conservation group asked the federal commission to reconsider a waiver order that allowed National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. and Empire Pipeline Inc. to bypass a Clean Water Act Section 401 permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for the Northern Access 2016 project. The group also requested that FERC refrain from issuing any notices to proceed with construction until the commission responded to its request and any other calls for a rehearing. The New York agency asked FERC in August for a rehearing of the decision.

"The decision to ignore [New York's] finding that the project would jeopardize New York state's water quality is based on an irrational interpretation of the [Clean Water Act] that elevates form over substance and allows National Fuel to flout an agreement it entered into freely and fairly," the Sierra Club said.

FERC decided on Aug. 6 that when the New York agency failed to approve or deny a Section 401 permit by a one-year statutory deadline, it had waived its authority. The commission issued the order in response to a December 2017 request from the National Fuel companies. The Sierra Club observed that, although the state agency allowed the deadline to pass without a decision on the permit application, New York and the companies had agreed to extend the deadline before FERC's waiver order. FERC has said Section 401 does not allow parties to extend the statutory deadline.

FERC authorized the project in a February 2017 certificate order. The project will expand firm transportation service on the National Fuel and Empire systems by 497,000 Dth/d and 350,000 Dth/d, respectively. The project will include about 99 miles of pipeline, a new compressor station and related infrastructure. (FERC docket CP15-115)