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FERC allows construction of Weymouth gas compressor station, over objections

Highlights

FERC resists pressure to reconsider need for project

Construction start in early December

Washington — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given Enbridge subsidiaries approval to start construction on a long-delayed compressor station in Weymouth, Massachusetts, that would enable northbound natural gas flows on Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline and into Canada.

In doing so, FERC set aside recent urgings that it rethink whether the project is needed.

The planned Weymouth Compressor is part of the Atlantic Bridge project, designed to expand Algonquin Gas Transmission system capacity by 132,705 Dt/d from receipt points in New York and New Jersey along the mainline, which extends to the north of Boston. The project would also enable northbound capacity by its interconnect with Algonquin in Beverly, Massachusetts, into eastern Canada.

Construction of the Weymouth compressor is expected to support an incremental 106 MMcf/d of south-to-north flow capacity on Maritimes, which would allow some gas currently flowing into the Boston market to instead flow farther north on Maritimes and into Canada.

Enbridge spokesman Michael Barnes said Monday that Algonquin expects to start work in early December, and stressed the pipeline company is committed to meeting all requirements, "with public health and safety as our priority."

SENATORS OBJECT TO PROJECT

FERC's November 27 go-ahead for construction came over objections from Democratic US Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the Town of Weymouth and local opposition groups, who argued that new information illustrated a lack of need for the compressor station to send natural gas north (CP16-9). In particular, they suggested comments from National Grid and Eversource indicated their capacity needs could be met without the compressor station.

In a November 20 letter to FERC, Markey and Warren pressed FERC to re-examine its issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity, contending there should be a high bar when a proposed facility poses a serious risk of inconvenience and harm to the surrounding public.

Enbridge has argued that claims the compressor is no longer needed are erroneous, as the project continues to have contractual commitments for transportation north of Weymouth. "Specifically, following the assignment to National Grid and related turn back of capacity, the Weymouth Compressor Station is still necessary to satisfy contractual commitments to project shippers to deliver 57,872 Dt/d on Algonquin Gas Transmission and 84,726 Dt/d on Maritimes," it told FERC.

There is no provision for FERC's director of the Office of Energy Projects to revisit the determination of need in considering whether to grant a notice to proceed with construction, Enbridge argued.

STATE ACTION DELAYED

While partial path service on Atlantic Bridge began earlier this fall, the proposed 7,700 hp Weymouth compressor has been hung up in state reviews and challenges for years, a reflection of the long path for even small gas projects in New England, and local opposition to the compressor. The project won certificate authorization from FERC January 25, 2017.

Massachusetts' approval of a coastal zone management permit mid-November was an important milestone for the project.

In granting the notice to proceed, FERC did not expressly respond to questions raised about project need, but said it had determined that Algonquin's implementation plan includes information necessary to meet pre-construction conditions of FERC's 2017 certificate order. All relevant federal authorizations have been received, FERC added.

Of note, local citizens' group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station has promised to continue fighting the siting of the compressor. And Markey and Warren have sponsored legislation that would ban construction of any compressor station that is part of a project facilitating gas exports. The legislation likely faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com

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