Pipeline Project Approved


Despite massive dissent, the latest Williams natural gas pipeline proposal has gotten a major approval it needs to move forward. On Friday, May 3, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) project.

According to Williams, the NESE project, which includes 23 miles of pipeline stretching from New Jersey to an already existing pipeline in the waters off of Rockaway, will provide 400,000 dekatherms per day of additional natural gas supply to National Grid to serve the New York area in time for the 2020/2021 winter heating season. Williams says this project is a necessity as National Grid is converting about 8,000 customers per year from heating oil to natural gas in New York City and Long Island, so this project will make those conversions possible.

The order issued by the Commission concludes a nearly three-year regulatory review process, ultimately determining that the Northeast Supply Enhancement project will serve the public interest and that environmental impacts would be minimized with the implementation of mitigation measures proposed by the company and FERC. Three of the four ruling commissioners approved the project.

“Natural gas is a critical component of the mix of energy sources necessary to meet the region’s growing energy needs and to help meet its aggressive clean air goals,” Williams Chief Operating Officer Micheal Dunn said. “We appreciate the Commission’s thorough review of this important infrastructure enhancement project, which ultimately will help advance New York City toward meeting the statewide carbon emissions goals outlined in the New York State Energy Plan.”

The project faced heavy backlash, with more than 6,000 comments from those against the project and more than 60 local elected officials signing a letter calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to stop the project. Many expressed concern over the safety and environmental impacts of the project. Even one of FERC’s commissioners, Richard Glick, expressed this in his dissent, saying “Today’s order suffers from two fatal flaws, both of which are a function of the Commission’s continued refusal to consider the environmental consequences of natural gas infrastructure projects. First, the Commission again refuses to assess the significance of the project's contribution to climate change, while at the same time asserting that the project in its entirety will not have significant environmental impacts. [...] Second, the Commission refuses to identify or consider the project's reasonably foreseeable impacts on upstream or downstream [greenhouse gas] emissions. Each flaw is sufficient in itself to render today’s order inconsistent with the law, arbitrary and capricious, and not the product of reasoned decision making.”

Those against the project say they aren’t surprised by the decision, but there is still time to stop it as the local governors can still have a say. Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have until May 16 to approve or deny state permits. Governor Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection have until June 6.

"As expected, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved another high-pressure interstate gas pipeline, proving once again that they are not regulators, but facilitators for the fossil fuel industry,” Kim Fraczek, Director of Sane Energy Project said. “Given that FERC will receive a large fee for this approval due to our faulty system, this is one more reason that Governor Cuomo needs to demonstrate to New Yorkers and to the nation that he is willing to stand up for our health, safety, democracy, and climate."

If the governors do not veto the project, Williams says it plans to start construction on the NESE project in the fall of 2019.