Williams Has the Edge in Constitution Gas Pipeline Permit Case

  • Williams seen winning argument to prevent further delays
  • Developers also challenge N.Y. denial of water-quality permit

Williams Partners LP and its co-developers in the $925 million Constitution natural gas pipeline are favored to prevail in one of two legal challenges to New York’s opposition to the project, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

The developers argument that the project can go forward even as permits are pending before the state favors “a company win,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Brandon Barnes wrote in research published Monday. In a case before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, Constitution is challenging the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s decision to require permits relating to impacts on wetlands.

Constitution and other proposed pipelines are facing opposition from environmental groups and landowners as the nation’s network of gas links expands to accommodate booming production from shale basins. Last month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has approved the 124-mile (200-kilometer) pipeline from the Marcellus shale region in northeast Pennsylvania to markets in New England and New York, granted developers a two-year extension to Dec. 2, 2018.

It’s “a defensive move geared toward putting a fence around the delays,” Barnes wrote. “Constitution seeks a declaration from the court that requiring other state permits as a condition precedent to construction is an overreach.”

In a separate proceeding, the developers are challenging New York’s denial of a water-quality permit before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The water-quality permit alone is required for the project to move ahead, Barnes said.

Pipeline Partners

Sean Mahar, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Conservation, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Williams applied more than three years ago to build the pipeline.

“We believe the court will agree that the NYSDEC’s permit denial was arbitrary and unjustified,” Williams spokesman Chris Stockton said Monday by e-mail. “We are optimistic the court will overturn this veiled attempt by the state to usurp the federal government’s authority and essentially ‘veto’ a FERC-certificated energy infrastructure project.”

Other partners in the Constitution pipeline include Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas Co. and WGL Holdings Inc.

The case is Constitution Pipeline, LLC v. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, et al.

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