RFK Jr. talks about Constitution pipeline outside the NY Capitol

ALBANY – Federal regulators allowed the Constitution Pipeline to move forward Wednesday, ruling New York took too long to deny a key permit that had been blocking construction of the proposed natural-gas line.

The decision handed down by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found the state Department of Environmental Conservation waived its right to reject the necessary water-quality permit for the pipeline because the state agency failed to act in a timely manner.

The ruling comes three years after DEC denied the pipeline builder's permit application for failing "to meet New York state’s water quality standards."

It clears the way for Williams Partners LP, the gas company heading the project, to move ahead with the Pennsylvania-to-New York line, though the state is likely to challenge the decision.

The 124-mile, 30-inch-wide pipeline would carry from Pennsylvania across New York's Southern Tier, cutting through eastern Broome County and Delaware County en route to Schoharie County, west of Albany.

"The project sponsors are evaluating the next steps for advancing the project," Williams said in a statement Tuesday.
The pipeline has generated controversy in New York, a state that has banned high-volume hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. It is set to carry gas from the fields of Pennsylvania, where fracking is allowed, into the Empire State.

The DEC rejected Williams' water-quality permit application in 2016, saying the project raised concerns for an estimated 250 streams in the state. Williams did not provide a comprehensive analysis of the environmental impact of the pipeline's burial, according to the DEC.

But that ruling came well outside a one-year window as required under federal law, the FERC ruling said, and as a result, the state waived its right to issue a permit.

The agency also denied the state's request for temporary stay on the project, essentially opening the door for construction to begin on the pipeline absent further challenge from the state.

Williams appealed to FERC after striking out in the federal courts, which sided with the state.

The pipeline would bring enough natural gas into the state to supply 3 million homes at a time when New York's energy future is up for debate in the wake of the state's new climate change law, which sets strict carbon-reduction goals.

DEC did not immediately return a request for comment.