December 12, 2012 —
TOWN OF MINISINK, NY — As Millennium Pipeline Company moves forward with plans to build a new compressor station in Hancock, the one currently under construction in Minisink, about 65 miles down the pipeline, is soon to become the subject of a lawsuit filed in the U.S Court of Appeals, brought by the community group Stop The Minisink Compression Station (StopMCS).
After several months of delay, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denied the rehearing request that was made by StopMCS. With this final order in place, StopMCS is free now to file a lawsuit in federal court.
On December 10, the group issued a press release saying they would move forward with the legal action. The release included comment from the two FERC commissioners who disagree with the three who denied the rehearing.
FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff and commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur opposed the project, saying a site called the Wagoner Alternative was a better location for a compressor station, which is also the position supported by StopMCS.
The dissenting commissioners issued a statement on December 7 that said, “We believe the Wagoner Alternative would create significantly fewer and less enduring environmental impacts and is therefore and environmentally preferable alternative.
Although the majority states that neither the National Environmental Policy Act, nor commission policy and precedent requires the commission to deny authorization of an environmentally acceptable project in the face of an environmentally preferable alternative, given the facts presented in this case, we believe the commission should have exercised its discretion to deny Millennium’s application.”
The Wagoner Alternative would require the replacement of a 7.4-mile segment of the pipeline, called the Neversink Segment, which is currently a 24-inch pipe that would need to be upgraded to a 30-inch pipe. In the order denying the request for a rehearing, the three other commissioners, Philip Moeller, John R. Norris and Tony Clark, said they believed, “The greater negative environmental and landowner impacts associated with replacing the Neversink Segment (such as the need to clear 47.61 acres of trees, the use of approximately 22 acres of cleared agricultural land for construction, impacting five special-status species, and directly impacting 58 properties with residences) outweighed the Wagoner Alternative’s advantages.”
On another issue, opponents of the project have charged that Millennium had been improperly allowed to apply “segmentation” to the environmental review of the project, which should have been considered in connection with a newly proposed compressor station in Hancock and the eventual replacement of the Neversink Segment, because all three are connected.
The majority wrote that the projects are separate because each element could proceed independently of the others. Further, in the case of the Neversink Segment, Millennium had not proposed to replace it, “so there is no way to consider that purely speculative action as connected to the Minisink Project.”
Spokespeople for StopMCS, however, have said in the past that the company’s future plans already include the replacement of the Neversink Segment.