Photographer: Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg

Williams Turns to Trump for Help Approving Delayed Gas Line

Updated on
  • New York’s rejection of natural gas line ‘political,’ CEO says
  • Link would carry gas from Marcellus shale basin to Northeast

A year after New York rejected a key certificate for the $925 million Constitution natural gas pipeline, developer Williams Cos. is appealing to a higher authority: the White House.

Williams and labor unions are pressing President Donald Trump’s administration for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit after the state refused to certify the project, Alan Armstrong, the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based company’s chief executive officer, said Wednesday in an interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. The pipeline would link supplies from the Marcellus shale basin, America’s biggest by volume, to markets in the Northeast.

Constitution’s approval would be a major win for Williams, which wants to reassure investors of its growth prospects after a failed $33 billion takeover attempt by Energy Transfer Equity LP and an aborted proxy fight with activist shareholder Corvex Management LP. Williams is doubling down on the Marcellus shale basin, where supplies have outpaced new pipeline capacity, as the company seeks to boost profits.

The Constitution delays “have not been a regulatory issue,” Armstrong said. “The issue has been purely political. That’s exactly when, for interstate commerce, the federal government should use their authority.” He declined to identify any Trump administration officials who are involved in the talks.

The White House declined to comment. Trump was instrumental in clearing the way for Energy Transfer Partners LP’s controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline to be finished. In March, TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL crude pipeline gained U.S. approval after Trump invited the pipeline builder to reapply for a presidential permit.

For more on how Trump helped Energy Transfer finish the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline, read this story.

Although New York has not issued a water-quality certificate for the Constitution pipeline, the Army Corps can issue its own permit if the state doesn’t act within a “reasonable” time period, Armstrong said. Williams also supports a broader Trump administration effort to reduce the “regulatory morass” facing pipeline development, he said.

Williams, which controls pipeline owner Williams Partners LP through ownership of the general partner, is holding an analyst meeting Thursday in New York. Williams rose 2.3 percent to close at $30.76 in New York on Wednesday. Williams Partners climbed 1.2 percent to $41.46.

Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., one of Williams’s partners on the Constitution pipeline, jumped 4.5 percent to $24.88.

(Updates with no comment from White House in fifth paragraph.)
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