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(Reuters) - Energy traders and natural gas pipeline companies on Friday hailed a U.S. federal regulator’s decision to overturn New York’s denial of a water permit for building the Millennium Pipeline in the state.

People in the industry expressed hope that the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would be willing to override state decisions to block other pipelines, including Williams Cos Inc’s Constitution and National Fuel Gas Co’s Northern Access pipelines from Pennsylvania. These could also be approved if similar waivers are granted by FERC.

FERC, which is in charge of U.S. energy regulation, now has three members, after two new commissioners were appointed by President Donald Trump. Environmental groups and other opponents of fracking blasted the decision, saying it violated the state’s authority.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation said it was reviewing whether to appeal FERC’s decision, “and will consider all legal options to protect public health and the environment.” 

Both Williams and National Fuel said they would seek similar relief from FERC.

New York had denied a water quality certification for Millennum, a 7.8-mile (12.6 kilometer) line to provide around 0.127 billion cubic feet per day of gas to the Valley Energy Center power plant in Wawayanda, New York, from an existing pipeline. New York uses about 3.6 bcfd.

National Fuel’s CEO Ronald Tanski sent a letter to FERC earlier in the week asking the agency to overturn the NYDEC’s denial of a water certificate for its Northern Access project, which runs from Pennsylvania to New York.

FERC’s decision on the Millennium pipeline “is certainly a positive step for the natural gas industry, however, our argument with regards to the Northern Access Project is substantially different,” National Fuel spokeswoman Karen Merkel told Reuters.

Williams spokesman Chris Stockton said the company would seek a waiver for the planned 124-mile, 0.65-bcfd Constitution pipeline that would move shale gas from Pennsylvania. New York does not allow fracking.

Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Director Roger Downs in a statement called FERC’s reversal of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision “an insult to New Yorkers and our right to protect our communities and our water.”

He said states “unquestionably have the authority to rule whether a dirty, dangerous fracked gas pipeline violates clean water laws, and nowhere is FERC granted the right to override that authority.”

The NYDEC denied Millennium’s water quality certificate in August 2017. FERC said the agency failed to act within a year of the original application in 2015.

(Corrects amount of gas consumed in NY to 3.6 bcfd from 7.2 bcfd in paragraph 6)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo expects to score lots of points with 2020 Democratic primary voters for his “80 by 50” plan to make New York a clean-energy leader, cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. That’s a win for him — at a huge expense to everyone who lives here.

Jonathan Lesser, president of Continental Economics, lays out the grim facts in a new Manhattan Institute study, “The High Cost of Symbolic Environmentalism.”

Actually meeting the 2050 goals would cost New York consumers more than $1 trillion, he finds. Just meeting the 2030 interim goals would push up electric bills by $18 billion over the next dozen years.

Cuomo’s goals require far more than just replacing oil-, gas- and coal-based power plants with solar, wind, hydro or nuclear ones, because those plants account for just a small share of the state’s fossil-fuel consumption. Furnaces and vehicles, for example, would have to go electric, too. 

That all requires vast new upstate wind and solar farms, plus huge new transmission lines to get the power here. And massive investment in battery facilities: Solar generation drops at night, and in the winter — when home-heating needs peak. Wind-power generation varies with, well, the wind.

To meet the 2050 goals, New York would need “to build at least 100,000 megawatts of offshore wind generation covering 6,000 square miles, an area larger than Connecticut.”

The only operating US offshore wind facility is in Rhode Island; the first facility proposed for New York isn’t scheduled to be in service until 2022, at the earliest.

If the state went solar instead, it’d need 300,000 MW of capacity, when the whole country added just 11,300 MW in 2015.

Team Cuomo made it all look reasonable with cost-benefit analyses that pretend to show the transformation as a net plus. But, Lesser points out, these are utter bull — not accounting for, e.g., the environmental costs of industrial solar and wind farms.

Worse, they claim vast economic benefits from the shift, ignoring the fact that taking New York carbon-free wouldn’t even dent global carbon emissions — which means the changes wouldn’t deliver any real gain.

It’s all one vast white elephant, wasting billions to serve Cuomo’s political ambitions.

The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation has denied key permits Millennium Pipeline Co. is seeking for its planned 7.8-mile pipeline that would supply natural gas to the $900 million power plant being built in Wawayanda.

The full implications of the decision for the future of the pipeline and the power plant were not clear Thursday.

The president and CEO of Competitive Power Ventures expressed confidence Thursday that the pipeline will still be approved, and said that its 650-megawatt Valley Energy Center on Route 6 will still go online by early 2018, operating on backup fuel oil.

In a decision filed Thursday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, DEC Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel Thomas Berkman wrote that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s environmental review of the $57.3 million project was “inadequate and deficient.”

Berkman cited an Aug. 22 federal decision related to a pipeline project in the Southeast that pitted FERC against the Sierra Club, calling that decision a change in circumstance. That decision found that FERC “failed to consider or quantify the downstream greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of the natural gas transported by the project.”

“Here, just as in Sierra Club, FERC failed to consider or quantify the indirect effects of downstream GHG emissions and environmental review of the project that will result from burning the natural gas that the project will transport to CPV Valley Energy Center,” Berkman wrote.

The decision comes after the DEC reviewed more than 6,000 public comments on Millennium’s Valley Lateral pipeline. Millennium has been seeking three key permits required to start construction of the pipeline, which would run through Wawayanda and Minisink.

Though the pipeline had gone through an environmental review by FERC, the federal approval is contingent on Millennium gaining state permits. Those include a water quality certification through the federal Clean Water Act and two state permits to allow the pipeline to cross streams and disturb freshwater wetlands, according to the DEC. Those three permits were denied in Thursday’s decision.

The DEC’s decision seems to have sidestepped whether it thinks Millennium has met the requirements to earn the water permits.

 

Instead, the DEC is asking FERC to “reopen the evidentiary record” for the project to hear additional information about greenhouse gas emissions associated with burning natural gas from the power plant. Alternatively, the DEC is asking for a supplemental environmental review or an environmental impact statement.

Millennium spokeswoman Michelle Hook said via email that the company is determining its next move.

“It does not appear to be a clear-cut decision and our lawyers are reviewing it to determine how to proceed,” Hook said. “What is clear is that the NYSDEC did not deny our water quality certificate based on any environmental impacts we would have on water or wetlands. We have addressed every request they have made of us related to water crossings. According to a letter from DEC, the agency’s issue is with the power plant’s greenhouse gas emissions and not any direct environmental impact of our pipeline.”

A DEC spokeswoman referred questions back to the agency’s federal filing.

In a statement, CPV President and CEO Gary Lambert slammed the DEC, calling its decision “disappointing” and “without merit.”

“The DEC’s regulatory responsibility was to rule on a water quality certificate. Instead, it issued a confusing denial based on air emission considerations which have been exhaustively studied and are part of the record which the DEC itself used to issue the required air permits for the CPV Valley Plant several years ago,” Lambert said.

Lambert said CPV is confident the pipeline will ultimately be approved and that the DEC’s decision ignores “the significant improvements to air quality that the addition of newer, more efficient generation in New York is having.” Once operational, he said the plant will reduce overall emissions, enhance the reliability of the grid and save consumers money.

He also warned that the DEC’s decision could affect New York’s ability to attract future infrastructure projects.

“Our financial partners, including a consortium of lenders, placed their trust in the state by committing significant capital based on the many permits and approvals issued for the project by numerous state agencies over the course of 7 years. For the DEC to take the position that air emissions are a concern after the project has undergone a comprehensive permitting review and is 80% complete is a collateral attack and may impact the ability for the state to attract investment required to build new infrastructure in the future,” Lambert said.

Local environmental activists and some residents who have fought against natural gas infrastructure for years have opposed the pipeline, seeing it as a way to prevent the power plant from operating.

“We applaud the DEC’s decision to deny the water permit for the Millennium Pipeline. This is a validation of people power and the law,” said Pramilla Malick, an environmental activist and chair of Protect Orange County.

The summer is almost done. Many of us who live in the Northeast are not looking forward to winter. The progressives are sticking it to us.

Thanks to what The Wall Street Journal calls an “energy blockade,” we face an energy crisis.

Here's the story: NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has banned fracking, the drilling technology that releases natural gas from shale buried deep underground. There's a vast supply in New York, and it’s cheap, but you are not allowed to go get it.

And, Governor Cuomo is blocking pipelines that would deliver natural gas to the rest of New England.

Ah, witness the power of the greens, and the governor's presidential ambitions. Even though natural gas emits much less carbon, environmentalists hate it…it is, after all, just another wicked fossil fuel. Governor Cuomo thought green would play big in national politics!

So here we are, a month from a chilly fall. Coal-fired power plants are shutting, and the nuclear plant at Indian Point is scheduled to close. Energy costs in the Northeast are way above neighboring regions.

And we are not allowed to go get the cheap natural gas that lies in abundance under our own feet. And we're not allowed to pipe it in from elsewhere.

That is indeed an energy blockade...

Governor Cuomo thinks he can rise to the presidency on the back of long suffering energy consumers. Perhaps he needs to re-calculate. Winter is coming, and New Englanders will have little patience with politicians who make life expensive because they think they are “saving the planet.”

An appeals court on Tuesday rejected the federal government's approval of a natural gas pipeline project in the southeastern U.S., citing concerns about its impact on climate change.
 
In a 2-1 ruling, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) did not properly analyze the climate impact from burning the natural gas that the project would deliver to power plants.
 
The ruling is significant because it adds to environmentalists' arguments that analyses under the National Environmental Policy Act - the law governing all environmental reviews of federal decisions - must consider climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.
 
The case concerns the Southeast Market Pipelines Project, which is meant to bring gas to Florida to fuel existing and planned power plants.
 
The Sierra Club sued FERC following its 2016 approval of the project. The environmental group brought a series of objections to the project and its environmental review, but the court denied all of the objections except the one focused on greenhouse gas.
 
The environmental impact statement for the project "should have either given a quantitative estimate of the downstream greenhouse emissions that will result from burning the natural gas that the pipelines will transport or explained more specifically why it could not have done so," Judge Thomas Griffith, who was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush, wrote in the opinion. He was joined by Judge Judith Ann Wilson Rogers, one of President Bill Clinton's nominees.
 
"As we have noted, greenhouse-gas emissions are an indirect effect of authorizing this project, which FERC could reasonably foresee, and which the agency has legal authority to mitigate," Griffith said.
"Quantification would permit the agency to compare the emissions from this project to emissions from other projects, to total emissions from the state or the region, or to regional or national emissions-control goals. Without such comparisons, it is difficult to see how FERC could engage in 'informed decision making' with respect to the greenhouse-gas effects of this project, or how 'informed public comment' could be possible," the court wrote, quoting previous cases regarding environmental reviews.
 
Judge Janice Rogers Brown, another Bush nominee, dissented from the ruling, arguing that FERC does not have the authority to take action to reduce the greenhouse gas impact of pipelines it approves, so it is not obligated to analyze some impacts.
 
The court's decision overturns the project's federal approval and returns the issue to FERC to complete the necessary greenhouse gas analysis.

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