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Transco asks US court to clarify stay for Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline

Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line has asked the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to clarify the reach of a temporary administrative stay of the certificate authorization for the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline project the court ordered Monday.

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In a Tuesday morning filing, Transco warned that if the stay applied beyond Pennsylvania -- including to parts of the project already in service -- it could impede service to existing Transco customers.

The DC Circuit Monday granted a temporary stay, pausing construction to give the court time to consider an emergency stay request that environment groups filed (Allegheny Defense Project, et al., v. US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).

"The purpose of the administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion for stay and should not be constructed in any way as ruling on the merits of that motion," the court said in a per curiam order issued Monday.



Transco, in a motion to the court Tuesday, sought clarification of whether the stay applied beyond construction currently occurring in Pennsylvania in six construction spreads, noting the project also entails facilities in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

The court Tuesday ordered the petitioners to respond to Transco's motion for clarification by 2 pm the same day.

"Atlantic Sunrise has undergone a nearly four-year, extensive review process and is operating and being constructed in compliance with all state and federal permits," Micheal Dunn, Williams Partners' chief operating officer, said in a statement. "These current actions by opponents of American energy are, this morning, idling thousands of workers in Pennsylvania and could delay the benefits of low-cost energy delivery to millions of American families." He added the company expects the court will "expeditiously complete its review."

While the petitioners did not submit declarations of how members would be affected in the states other than Pennsylvania, a stay of the certificate order would stay construction in the other states, Transco's motion for clarification said.

"As Transco noted in its response to the motion, some facilities are already complete and in service, pursuant to FERC letter orders, including a replacement of two segments of pipeline on Transco's main pipeline system in Virginia. A stay of the certificate order could require taking completed facilities out of service, which would have significant adverse impacts on Transco, its customers and the environment," the court filing said.

Existing facilities currently provide "partial path" firm service of up to 400,000 Dt/d, the company said. Because the facilities are integrated into Transco's existing mainline, they are needed for transportation service to existing customers on the Transco system, it said.

"In other words, these facilities cannot be shut down without also shutting down existing Transco facilities," it said.

Transco sought clarification that the order only applies to construction, not operation of completed facilities, and that it only applies to one construction spread in Pennsylvania, where landowners who supported the petitioners' motion own property.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates and Sierra Club, filing on behalf of Allegheny Defense Project and seven other groups, in an appeals court motion October 30, said among other things that the federal environmental review of the Atlantic Sunrise project failed to meet the standard that the court laid out for evaluating greenhouse gas emissions under the Sabal Trail project decision.

Transco spokesman Christopher Stockton confirmed that the company has paused construction of the project.

The Atlantic Sunrise project is expected to have a significant market impact along the Eastern US. Its 1.7 Bcf/d of upstream takeaway capacity is expected to provide a major outlet for capacity-constrained production in the northeastern Pennsylvania producing region.

Once those volumes reach Transco's mainline, the project will support up to 1.7 Bcf/d of incremental north-to-south flows between Zones 4 and 6 on the system, which extends from Alabama to the New York City market area.

--Maya Weber, maya.weber@spglobal.com

--Edited by Valarie Jackson, valarie.jackson@spglobal.com