Pipeline construction halted
Federal court steps in
NEW YORK CITY, NY — A federal appeals court has stepped into the ongoing battle between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The US Court of Appeal, Second Circuit on November 2 issued an emergency stay FERc’s “Notice to Proceed with Construction.” FERC had issued the notice to Millennium Pipeline to allow the company to begin construction on the 7.8 mile Valley Lateral Pipeline, which is intended to carry gas from the Millennium Pipeline to the Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) power plant in Wawayanda. The stay halts construction of the pipeline, at least temporarily, until the case is heard in court.
The issue is whether DEC acted properly when it denied a water quality certificate to Millennium because the environmental review of the pipeline did not include a review of the impact the construction of the pipeline would have on climate. FERC declared that DEC waited too long to act on the permit application and therefore had forfeited the right to deny the permit. The argument from the DEC was that the one-year clock on the permit application began when the DEC determined it had a completed application, not when Millennium began the process of applying.
DEC applied to FERC for a rehearing on the matter, but instead of granting that, a FERC official issued the Notice to Proceed, which prompted DEC to take the matter to court. Activists and environmentalists have been fighting both the power plant and the pipeline and considered the stay to be a victory.
In response to the Notice to Proceed, Pramilla Malick of Protect Orange County said, “FERC routinely violates the fourteenth amendment rights of citizens but this is the first time they’ve ever violated the due process rights of a state.”
According to a press release from Protect Orange County, the stay was issued as workers had begun marking trees for removal from land that opponents claim includes habitat for endangered species.
Protect Orange County issued a statement saying, “Now more than ever, as we witness the dire global consequences of climate change; as clean water, air and soil resources are sacrificed to the greed of polluting fossil fuel giants; as our current administration in Washington, DC, continues to deny climate science, rolling back environmental protections, obstructing efforts to move toward clean energy, while winking at the lawlessness of big energy polluters, we need responsive and courageous local leaders to defend our resources with every means that the law allows. Today, our state leaders, led by the Governor, advanced the interests of the citizens of Orange County and New York State by acting decisively on behalf of the people, and not in the interest of corporate polluters.”