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Opponents of Transco's Atlantic Sunrise project seek to block service request

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Opponents of Transco's Atlantic Sunrise project seek to block service request

Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, made a last-ditch effort to stop Williams Cos. Inc. from starting to use the full capacity of the 1.7-Bcf/d Atlantic Sunrise expansion of the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC system.

In a filing posted Aug. 31 at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the groups asked the agency to not grant Transco's in-service request while legal challenges remain unresolved.

"Granting Transco's request prior to judicial resolution of these challenges would deprive the courts of meaningful jurisdiction by placing the project into service before a decision on the merits; deprive FERC of the ability to fully and fairly take appropriate action in response to these decisions, should such action be required; and deprive the various petitioner groups of their right to meaningful review by the courts and the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board," the groups said in a letter dated Aug. 30.

The Atlantic Sunrise project is one of a group of new pipelines and expansions designed to boost natural gas takeaway capacity from the Appalachian Basin in the U.S. Northeast to downstream markets. Williams has been eager to complete the project so that it can meet shipper demand.

Pending federal appeals court claims have challenged FERC's authorization of the project and Pennsylvania's approval of a water quality certificate. Besides Sierra Club, the other opponents listed in the letter to FERC are Lancaster Against Pipelines, Lebanon Pipeline Awareness, and Heartwood.

"Landowners and other interested parties along the pipeline route have submitted numerous letters to FERC describing sedimentation events and other problems throughout the construction process," the groups said.

Williams, meanwhile, has pushed ahead. "It's not a surprise that organizations opposed to natural gas development would attempt to delay the start of a significant, game-changing project like Atlantic Sunrise," the operator said in an emailed statement. "However, right now our focus is completing all of the remaining steps necessary to complete commissioning so that this vital project can begin service in the coming weeks."

A portion of the mainline component of the project involving 550 MMcf/d of capacity has already been placed into service. Transco has informed project shippers that, subject to regulatory authorizations, it will be able to provide full service on the project as early as Sept. 10. Transco asked FERC for approval of its in-service request by Sept. 7. (FERC docket CP15-138)

The additional facilities Williams expected to put in service include Central Penn Line North, a 30-inch-diameter segment on Transco's Leidy Line in Columbia County, Pa., to the Zick meter station in Susquehanna County, Pa.; Central Penn Line South, a 42-inch-diameter segment on Transco's mainline in Lancaster County, Pa., to Transco's Leidy line; and compressor station 610, a new 40,000-horsepower unit on Central Penn South in Columbia County.

Other gas takeaway projects targeting the Northeast include EQT Midstream Partners LP' 2-Bcf/d Mountain Valley pipeline and Dominion Energy Inc.'s 1.5-Bcf/d Atlantic Coast pipeline. Strong pushback from conservation groups has created challenges for those projects as well.

Harry Weber is a reporter for S&P Global Platts, which like S&P Global Market Intelligence is owned by S&P Global Inc.