Petition to Block Spectra Energy Pipeline Denied by Judge

Spectra Energy Corp.’s plan to build a 16-mile pipeline to bring natural gas into Manhattan from New Jersey was cleared by a New York state judge who rejected an environmental group’s challenge to the project.

Justice Eileen A. Rakower denied a petition from Sane Energy Project and other groups to block construction of the pipeline, saying the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has authority over the licensing of interstate natural gas lines, according to a ruling dated Jan. 16 and posted last week.

The Natural Gas Act gives the U.S. Court of Appeals jurisdiction to hear challenges involving the licensing of interstate natural gas pipelines, and federal law also preempts state and local environmental-review requirements for such pipelines, Rakower said. A proper challenge should be brought with the commission or in federal court, she said.

The Sane Energy Project was formed in January 2011 to fight the pipeline, according to its website. The group, which opposes the “development, transport and export of shale gas,” said it won’t pursue an appeal because of the costs.

‘Right Thing’

“This is disappointing, but we still feel that it was worth the effort and was the right thing to do,” the group said in a statement. “It was necessary for someone to go after them and we’re glad we did. We could not have stood by all these past months, not having tried every means available to fight the pipeline.”

The $1.2 billion pipeline would bring 800 million cubic feet of gas a day from Linden, New Jersey, to Manhattan’s West Village, by way of Staten Island and Jersey City. Spectra has said the project, which started in July, may lower prices for customers in New Jersey and New York by bringing more gas from abundant shale fields such as the Marcellus region in Pennsylvania.

The commission said in March that the project would have a “less-than-significant” environmental effect. Spectra, based in Houston, completed a section of the pipeline between Jersey City and Manhattan, U.S. Transmission President Bill Yardley said at a Jan. 16 conference.

Caitlin Currie, a spokeswoman for Spectra Energy, didn’t immediately return a voice-mail message seeking comment on the ruling.

The case is Sane Energy Project v. Hudson River Park Trust, 103707/2012, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).

(Updates with Sane Energy’s comment in fifth paragraph.)
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