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Williams Companies Constitution Pipeline Goal Set at 2019

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Energy infrastructure provider The Williams Companies, Inc. WMB is hopeful of its Constitution Pipeline project to begin service by 2019, subject to necessary regulatory approvals.  

The pipeline company requested the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to repeal New York's denial of a water permit which was necessary to move ahead with the project.  

The company applied for the water permit in August 2013. The state however failed to act on the permit request within the one year of the statutory deadline. In 2016, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied the water permit to Williams Companies. The company believes such delays lead to a waiver of the federal Clean Water Act's Section 401 water quality certification requirement.

The petition filed by the company states, “The Clean Water Act specifies that if a state agency fails or refuses to act on a request for certification under Section 401 within a reasonable period of time, which shall not exceed one year, after receipt of such request, the certification requirements shall be waived.”

The project is jointly owned by William Companies, Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation COG , WGL Holdings, Inc. WGL and Piedmont Natural Gas Company which was acquired by Duke Energy Corporation DUK last year. The 121-mile natural gas pipeline, which runs from Pennsylvania to Schoharie County was to transport natural gas from the Marcellus shale to customers in the North East.

The $750-million project has the capacity to transport 650,000 dekatherms of gas per day. The pipeline which has received President Trump’s support aims to address the problems of transportation infrastructure in the Northeast region and speed up shipments from the prolific Marcellus and Utica basins.

The project was expected to become operational in 2015, but got delayed due to lengthy review process, pushing the in-service date to late 2016. The project received the FERC’s approval in early 2016. However, the DEC denied to issue a water quality permit to the pipeline due to its possibility of impacting the ecology and climate adversely.  The DEC claimed that the owners of the project and the FERC did not analyze the environmental impacts of the project properly and that the pipeline can possibly impact over 250 streams adversely.

If FERC agrees to the company’s request to retract the water permit denial, William Companies will seek a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If it secures all the necessary approvals, the pipeline is likely to come online by the first half of 2019.

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