Well well well–this news is sure to ruin the day of irrational fossil fuel haters in New York and Pennsylvania. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week approved a request by National Fuel Gas Company subsidiary Empire Pipeline to build two new compressor stations along the Empire Pipeline–one in Tioga County, PA, the other in Ontario County, NY, to flow an extra 205 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of yummy fracked PA gas into the Empire State (don’t tell Cuomo).
In February 2018, Empire filed an application with FERC to build the Empire North Project, two new compressor stations, no new pipeline required (see Empire Pipe Plans 2 Compressors in PA & NY to Move Marcellus Gas). The project will provide much-needed natural gas for Upstate NY and Canada. It will also connect to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline, so who knows? Maybe some Marcellus molecules will find their way into New England too.
Anti-fossil fuelers in NY ramped up to oppose the project (see NY Antis Gear Up to Oppose Zero-Emission Compressor Stn). Nothing new about that, unfortunately. The thing is, the proposed compressor station in Ontario County will have zero (yes, zero) emissions. It will use electricity instead of diesel or natural gas or other fuels–so there’s no smoke stack and absolutely nothing going into the atmosphere. Completely benign. And yet, because the compressor station will flow more “fracked gas” from PA, irrational nutjobs oppose it.
Last week FERC commissioners approved the plan, although there was some disagreement over how much of an impact the project will have on so-called, non-existent man-made global warming. In the end enough commissioners approved the plan, which will now proceed.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved a request by Empire Pipeline Inc. to expand the capacity on its nearly 250-mile pipeline system in New York and Pennsylvania, although the commissioners disagreed over how the $142 million project’s impact on climate change should be considered.
FERC’s order on Thursday issued a certificate for two new compressor stations that would collectively add 205,000 dekatherms per day. One station would be built in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, and the other would be constructed in Ontario County, New York.
The added capacity was approved, but the commissioners disagreed over the handling of the climate change issue. Chairman Neil Chatterjee and Commissioners Cheryl A. LaFleur and Bernard L. McNamee signed on to the majority order in full. LaFleur wrote her own concurrence where she did her own climate change analysis. Commissioner Richard Glick dissented in part, citing climate change.
There is a split on the commission about how certain upstream and downstream impacts of climate change should be calculated and considered on these projects.
“I cannot countenance an approach that acts as if climate change is not relevant to the public interest. So long as the commission adheres to such a deeply misguided approach, I have no choice but to dissent from its orders, regardless of what I might otherwise think about the benefits of the project,” Glick wrote. “Because I cannot find that Empire’s project is in the public interest without meaningfully considering the significance of its contribution to climate change, I respectfully dissent in part.”
FERC, in an order on a separate New York gas pipeline expansion effort in May, announced a policy limiting its analysis of certain projects’ climate change impacts, igniting dissent by LaFleur and Glick. The order said the commission had briefly provided information on emissions from the production and downstream consumption of natural gas associated with a project. Such information was “inherently speculative” and based on “generalized assumptions” on some projects, the order said.
It said estimates would no longer be made for certain projects on which production or downstream use of the gas is not considered a cumulative or indirect impact. The D.C. Circuit was then asked to review that determination.
LaFleur said that even though Empire doesn’t know exactly what the end-use of the gas connected to the project will be, it is “reasonably foreseeable that the gas being transported will be burned” and that it will result in emissions. According to LaFleur, if all the gas was burnt, it would result in nearly 4 million metric tons per year of downstream CO2.
The word “emissions” only shows up in the main order as it relates to the project’s construction and operational impacts on air quality, which was determined to be minimal.
The pipeline system starts at the U.S.-Canada border, and travels through New York and on into north central Pennsylvania, according to the order.
Karen L. Merkel, a spokeswoman for National Fuel, the parent company of Empire Pipeline Inc., praised FERC’s decision to approve the “much-needed natural gas infrastructure project.”
“Empire North will efficiently increase the capacity of natural gas transported on the existing, modern Empire pipeline facilities, without adding any new pipeline, to local gas distribution markets and market centers in the Northeast,” Merkel told Law360 in an email.
FERC did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.*
*Law360 (Mar 8, 2019) – FERC Greenlights $142M NY-Pa. Pipeline Expansion Project
FERC order approving the Empire North Project:
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