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Millennium decision: the system is broken

August 27, 2014

When the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia handed down the Millennium Pipeline Company decision on August 15, the court argued that Millennium had followed the law in the siting of its compressor station in the Town of Minisink.

While it may be true that the court, Millennium and the commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) all may have strictly followed the law, no reasonable person can look at the maps of the two sites that were at the center of the lawsuit, and conclude that the people of Minisink received justice.

One of the central issues of the case was whether the compressor station should have been built in Minisink, in the middle of a residential area, located within half a mile of 200 families, or in a place called the “Wagoner Alternative,” where it would have been surrounded mostly by large tracts of undeveloped land.

The question led to a rare split among FERC commissioners, with two of them saying the compressor station should have been located at the Wagoner Alternative, away from all of those families. The three other commissioners agreed with Millennium, that the station rightly belonged smack dab in the middle of those 200 families.

Millennium argued that the use of the Wagoner site would result in more adverse impacts to the environment than the other site. But we suspect the more compelling reason Millennium favored the Minisink site, is that the Wagoner Alternative would have required the replacement of about 7.5 miles of pipeline, and that would have been expensive.

The two dissenting commissioners expressed the view that the Wagoner Alternative would result in more, longer-term benefits to the environment than the Millennium Site.

In quoting the words of one of the commissioners on the other side of the issue, the court wrote, “even if one truly thought the Wagoner Alternative wrought lesser environmental impacts than the Minisink Project, so long as Minisink was still considered ‘an acceptable site that produces minimal adverse impacts,’ it should still be approved because FERC need not limit its approval to sites with ‘the minimum impact.’”

So that’s it: FERC does not have to accept the site with the minimum environmental impact. The question is, why not? Why should FERC not be required to accept the site with the minimal impact on the environment and also at the same time, why should it not be required to accept the site with minimal impact on people and families?