An above-ground pipeline cutting through a wintery landscape.

Natural Gas Pipeline Projects

State attor­neys gen­er­al are address­ing ener­gy infra­struc­ture projects and needs in their states and regions, includ­ing advo­cat­ing for the inter­ests of com­mu­ni­ties that would be affect­ed by pro­posed nat­ur­al gas pipelines. This advo­ca­cy has includ­ed work­ing at both the state and fed­er­al lev­els includ­ing, in par­tic­u­lar, at the Fed­er­al Ener­gy Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion (FERC).

Advo­ca­cy at the Fed­er­al Level

End­ing FERC’s Abu­sive Use of Tolling Orders under the Nat­ur­al Gas Act

Under the Nat­ur­al Gas Act (NGA), a com­pa­ny seek­ing to build or oper­ate a nat­ur­al gas pipeline must obtain a cer­tifi­cate of pub­lic con­ve­nience and neces­si­ty from FERC to con­struct and oper­ate the pipeline. Once the cer­tifi­cate has been issued, the pri­vate com­pa­ny hold­ing the cer­tifi­cate can use emi­nent domain to con­demn land nec­es­sary to con­struct, oper­ate and main­tain the pipeline. Actions to con­demn land have been the sub­ject of much lit­i­ga­tion (see dis­cus­sion below of the efforts of the attor­neys gen­er­al of Mary­land and New Jer­sey to oppose con­dem­na­tion of state-owned land to build nat­ur­al gas pipelines in their states). 

Pri­vate landown­ers who wish to chal­lenge FERC’s issuance of the cer­tifi­cate order must first seek rehear­ing before the Com­mis­sion before seek­ing judi­cial review in the courts. The Nat­ur­al Gas Act pro­vides that unless FERC acts upon the appli­ca­tion for rehear­ing with­in thir­ty days after it is filed, such appli­ca­tion may be deemed to have been denied.” 

For years, FERC has rou­tine­ly issued tolling orders that have extend­ed for months the con­gres­sion­al­ly man­dat­ed thir­ty-day statu­to­ry lim­it on FERC’s author­i­ty to act on rehear­ing requests on FERC’s pipeline cer­ti­fi­ca­tion approvals. FERC’s tolling order prac­tice has denied landown­ers’ access to the courts to chal­lenge the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion approvals, while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly allow­ing pipeline con­struc­tion activ­i­ties – includ­ing con­dem­na­tion of pri­vate­ly-owned land – to proceed. 

2017-2021

  • March 2020

    In March 2020, in lit­i­ga­tion in the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals, Mary­land Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bri­an Frosh led a coali­tion of 12 attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing an ami­cus brief urg­ing the court to end FERC’s use of tolling orders. The brief not­ed that FERC’s approach of allow­ing pipeline con­struc­tion to pro­ceed, while pre­clud­ing chal­lengers from secur­ing judi­cial review, under­mined the due process rights of the res­i­dents in the 12 juris­dic­tions. Fur­ther, the attor­neys gen­er­al point­ed out that FERC’s use of tolling orders out­side of the pipeline con­text, most notably under the Fed­er­al Pow­er Act (FPA), injures states where the rehear­ing requests seek to vin­di­cate states’ sov­er­eign right to adopt and imple­ment impor­tant pub­lic policies.

  • June 2020

    In June 2020, the D.C. Cir­cuit issued an en banc rul­ing in favor of the attor­neys gen­er­al. The deci­sion held that FERC’s use of tolling orders is con­trary to the lan­guage of the NGA. The FPA has iden­ti­cal lan­guage about rehear­ing requests deemed to have been denied” after thir­ty days, and with­in a week, FERC con­ced­ed that the deci­sion applies in the FPA con­text as well.

  • July 2020

    FERC filed a motion to stay the issuance of the man­date in the case by argu­ing that it need­ed addi­tion­al time to bring its NGA and FPA process­es in line with the court’s deci­sion. In July 2020, the D.C. Cir­cuit grant­ed a stay until Octo­ber 52020.

FER­C’s Oblig­a­tions to Ana­lyze GHG Emis­sions for Pipeline Projects

The Nation­al Envi­ron­men­tal Pol­i­cy Act (NEPA) requires that fed­er­al agen­cies pre­pare an envi­ron­men­tal impact analy­sis for major fed­er­al actions that may sig­nif­i­cant­ly impact the environment.

2017-2021

  • August 2017

    In August 2017, the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals held that to com­ply with NEPA, FERC must iden­ti­fy and eval­u­ate green­house gas (GHG) emis­sions asso­ci­at­ed with pro­pos­als to build new nat­ur­al gas infrastructure.

  • May 2018

    Despite its oblig­a­tion to con­duct an analy­sis of the envi­ron­men­tal impact of the GHG emis­sions asso­ci­at­ed with new nat­ur­al gas infra­struc­ture, FERC announced in a May 2018 rehear­ing denial that it would no longer eval­u­ate upstream and down­stream GHG emis­sions from new nat­ur­al gas infrastructure.

  • July 2018

    New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bar­bara Under­wood, in July 2018, filed com­ments with FERC opposed to the new­ly announced pol­i­cy. The com­ments not­ed that adopt­ing a major pol­i­cy change through deny­ing a request for a rehear­ing made it vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble for inter­est­ed par­ties to chal­lenge the new pol­i­cy, as only the par­ty that had request­ed the rehear­ing could seek judi­cial review of the order. New York argued that the rehear­ing denial was also sub­stan­tive­ly flawed as fed­er­al courts have repeat­ed­ly held that the impact of GHG emis­sions asso­ci­at­ed with new nat­ur­al gas infra­struc­ture must be ana­lyzed under NEPA.

  • Decem­ber 2018

    In Decem­ber 2018, New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Under­wood led a coali­tion of sev­en attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing an ami­cus brief in sup­port of lit­i­ga­tion in the D.C. Cir­cuit brought by a local envi­ron­men­tal group in New York chal­leng­ing the 2018 rehear­ing denial. The brief not­ed that FERC vio­lat­ed NEPA by refus­ing to eval­u­ate the project’s rea­son­ably fore­see­able” upstream and down­stream impacts on GHG emis­sions that would result from the burn­ing of nat­ur­al gas that would be trans­port­ed by the project. Fur­ther, FERC’s order on the rehear­ing is con­trary to the D.C. Circuit’s August 2017 rul­ing that FERC must iden­ti­fy and eval­u­ate GHG emis­sions asso­ci­at­ed with pro­pos­als to build new nat­ur­al gas infra­struc­ture. Last­ly, the brief not­ed that FERC improp­er­ly announced its new pol­i­cy in an adju­di­ca­to­ry pro­ceed­ing despite the pen­den­cy of an admin­is­tra­tive inquiry on the same mat­ter as FERC is seek­ing com­ments on its 1999 pol­i­cy state­ment on how it eval­u­ates appli­ca­tions to con­struct and oper­ate new nat­ur­al gas projects.

  • May 2019

    In May 2019, after oral argu­ments were heard in the lit­i­ga­tion, the D.C. Cir­cuit dis­missed the law­suit brought by a local envi­ron­men­tal group chal­leng­ing the 2018 rehear­ing denial. The D.C. Cir­cuit found that the local envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion could not sat­is­fy the Constitution’s stand­ing require­ment. The orga­ni­za­tion had not alleged an infor­ma­tion­al injury in its fil­ings with the court and could not advance a claim that it had suf­fered an orga­ni­za­tion­al harm beyond resources spent lit­i­gat­ing the rehear­ing denial.

  • June 2019

    Insist­ing that it had estab­lished stand­ing, the local envi­ron­men­tal group the fol­low­ing month filed a peti­tion to have the D.C. Cir­cuit rehear its claim or to have the D.C. Cir­cuit rehear the case en banc.

  • July 2019

    In July 2019, the D.C. Cir­cuit denied the local envi­ron­men­tal group’s peti­tion for the pan­el or the court to rehear the group’s claim.

Reform­ing FER­C’s Nat­ur­al Gas Pipeline Approval Process

2017-2021

  • Decem­ber 2017

    In Decem­ber 2017, Kevin McIn­tyre, then chair­man of the Fed­er­al Ener­gy Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion announced plans for reassess­ing FERC’s cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process for new nat­ur­al gas pipelines. The deci­sion was based on the asser­tion that the indus­try has changed sig­nif­i­cant­ly since the 1999 release of the FERC’s Nat­ur­al Gas Pol­i­cy State­ment. In April 2018, FERC released a Notice of Inquiry (NOI), solic­it­ing pub­lic com­ments on how the agency deter­mines whether a new nat­ur­al gas pipeline sat­is­fies the pub­lic need stan­dard of the Nat­ur­al Gas Act.

  • July 2018

    In July 2018, Mass­a­chu­setts Attor­ney Gen­er­al Healey, along with sev­en oth­er attor­neys gen­er­al, filed com­ments with FERC on the NOI. The com­ments raised con­cerns that the cur­rent cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process has led to the approval of nat­ur­al gas pipelines in excess of what is need­ed to meet cur­rent nation­al peak demand, and that the process fails to account for the cumu­la­tive envi­ron­men­tal impacts of new pipelines on a region­al basis.

    New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bar­bara Under­wood filed her own com­ments that adopt­ed the Mass­a­chu­setts-led com­ments. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Under­wood’s com­ments stressed the harm that landown­ers could suf­fer on the basis of FERC’s cur­rent prac­tice of issu­ing con­di­tion­al cer­tifi­cates that allow nat­ur­al gas com­pa­nies to ini­ti­ate emi­nent domain pro­ceed­ings before states have com­plet­ed their own envi­ron­men­tal reviews of pro­posed pipelines.

Ensur­ing States Have Suf­fi­cient Time to Review the Clean Water Act Impacts of Projects

2017-2021

  • Sep­tem­ber 2020

    In Sep­tem­ber 2020, FERC released a pro­posed rule intend­ed to ensure com­pli­ance with the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s (EPA) July 2020 rule on water qual­i­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion appli­ca­tions for fed­er­al­ly-per­mit­ted projects under sec­tion 401 of the Clean Water Act in con­nec­tion with a project for which autho­riza­tion is sought from FERC under sec­tion 3 or 7 of the Nat­ur­al Gas Act (NGA). Sec­tion 401 of the Clean Water Act requires that fed­er­al­ly-per­mit­ted projects involv­ing dis­charges into waters of the Unit­ed States must obtain a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the rel­e­vant state that the project meets state water qual­i­ty stan­dards. States are required to act on a state water qual­i­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion request with­in a rea­son­able peri­od of time” — not to exceed one year — or the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion require­ment is waived.

    The EPA’s July 2020 sec­tion 401 rule impos­es a strict lim­it on the time states have to review water qual­i­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion requests, restricts states’ sec­tion 401 review process to pol­lu­tion dis­charges from point sources, and pro­hibits states from con­sid­er­ing how a fed­er­al­ly per­mit­ted project as a whole will impact state water qual­i­ty. Learn more about EPA’s sec­tion 401 rule and the work of attor­neys gen­er­al in oppos­ing the rule here.

    FERC pro­posed that a state cer­ti­fy­ing author­i­ty waives its author­i­ty to issue a water qual­i­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion under sec­tion 401 of the Clean Water Act in con­nec­tion with a NGA sec­tion 3 or sec­tion 7 project if it has not denied or grant­ed a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion one year after the cer­ti­fy­ing agency receives the writ­ten request for certification.

  • Novem­ber 2020

    In Novem­ber 2020, Mary­land Attor­ney Gen­er­al Frosh led a coali­tion of 16 attor­neys gen­er­al in sub­mit­ting com­ments on FERC’s pro­posed rule. The com­ments voiced the states’ strong sup­port for pro­vid­ing state cer­ti­fy­ing author­i­ties with the max­i­mum amount of time allowed by statute before the sec­tion 401 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion author­i­ty is waived. It would be dif­fi­cult for the cer­ti­fy­ing author­i­ty to com­plete the review with any­thing less than the max­i­mum review peri­od giv­en the com­plex­i­ty of nat­ur­al gas pipeline projects. Addi­tion­al­ly, the attor­neys gen­er­al not­ed their con­cerns with EPA’s under­ly­ing sec­tion 401 water qual­i­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion rule by includ­ing their Octo­ber 2019 com­ments on EPA’s pro­posed sec­tion 401 rule and the law­suit that the attor­neys gen­er­al filed in Cal­i­for­nia fed­er­al dis­trict court chal­leng­ing EPA’s final sec­tion 401 rule.

Advo­ca­cy in the States

Mary­land

2017-2021

  • May 2019

    In May 2019, Colum­bia Gas filed a com­plaint in fed­er­al dis­trict court in Mary­land to con­demn state land in order to con­struct a nat­ur­al gas pipeline. The law­suit assert­ed that FERC’s cer­tifi­cate of pub­lic neces­si­ty for the project pro­vides Colum­bia Gas the author­i­ty to exer­cise the fed­er­al pow­er of emi­nent domain to con­demn the state land, a rails-to-trail bike path. The fol­low­ing month, Mary­land Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bri­an Frosh filed a motion to dis­miss Colum­bia Gas’ com­plaint. The motion not­ed that the Eleventh Amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion bars fed­er­al juris­dic­tion over suits by any pri­vate cit­i­zens against a state and that Colum­bia Gas’s action does not sat­is­fy any of the three excep­tions to the Eleventh Amendment’s bar to suits.

  • August 2019

    In August 2019, the court grant­ed Mary­land Attor­ney Gen­er­al Frosh’s motion to dis­miss the com­plaint filed by Colum­bia Gas. The court found that although Fed­er­al Ener­gy Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion approval con­ferred emi­nent domain author­i­ty to Colum­bia Gas to con­demn land for its project, the Eleventh Amend­ment pro­hibits a pri­vate com­pa­ny from exer­cis­ing emi­nent domain against a state in fed­er­al court.

Mass­a­chu­setts

Pro­tect­ing Ratepay­ers Dur­ing the Tran­si­tion Away from Fos­sil Fuels

2017-2021

  • June 2020

    In June 2020, Mass­a­chu­setts Attor­ney Gen­er­al Healey filed a peti­tion with the state’s Depart­ment of Pub­lic Util­i­ties (DPU) request­ing it open an inves­ti­ga­tion into the future of the nat­ur­al gas indus­try as Mass­a­chu­setts tran­si­tions away from fos­sil fuels toward a clean ener­gy future. In the peti­tion, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Healey rec­og­nized that siz­able reduc­tions in the heat­ing sector’s use of fos­sil fuels will be nec­es­sary to achieve Massachusetts’s legal­ly bind­ing statewide lim­it of net-zero green­house gas emis­sions by 2050. This decline in fos­sil fuel demand will have sig­nif­i­cant impacts on gas dis­tri­b­u­tion com­pa­nies and will require them to make sig­nif­i­cant changes to their plan­ning process­es and busi­ness mod­els that will direct­ly affect ratepay­ers. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Healey there­fore urged the DPU to work with stake­hold­ers to devel­op a reg­u­la­to­ry and pol­i­cy roadmap that pro­tects cus­tomers and ensures an equi­table and fair tran­si­tion away from fos­sil fuels and toward clean energy.

Scru­ti­niz­ing the Prac­tices of the Nat­ur­al Gas Industry

2017-2021

  • Octo­ber 2017

    In Octo­ber 2017, Mass­a­chu­setts Attor­ney Gen­er­al Healey ini­ti­at­ed an inquiry after a release of a report that con­clud­ed that nat­ur­al gas com­pa­nies in Mass­a­chu­setts and Con­necti­cut engaged in abu­sive pipeline sched­ul­ing prac­tices that arti­fi­cial­ly con­strained pipeline capac­i­ty and cost con­sumers $3.6 bil­lion between 2013 and 2016. Healey’s action fol­lowed a 2015 report com­mis­sioned by her office that deter­mined that the region could cost-effec­tive­ly and sus­tain­ably meet its ener­gy needs with­out increas­ing nat­ur­al gas pipeline capacity.

New Jer­sey

2017-2021

  • May 2018

    In May 2018, New Jer­sey Attor­ney Gen­er­al Gur­bir Gre­w­al filed a peti­tion for review of FERC’s cer­tifi­cate of pub­lic neces­si­ty for the Pen­nEast nat­ur­al gas pipeline. The Pen­nEast pipeline is expect­ed to cost $1 bil­lion and would car­ry nat­ur­al gas for 120 miles. The peti­tion assert­ed that FERC’s cer­tifi­cate order was arbi­trary and capri­cious because it relied on insuf­fi­cient data on the envi­ron­men­tal impact of the pipeline, and did not prop­er­ly attempt to mit­i­gate envi­ron­men­tal impacts asso­ci­at­ed with the pipeline. This case is being held in abeyance pend­ing the out­come of the Supreme Court case described below.

  • Decem­ber 2018

    In Decem­ber 2018, the fed­er­al dis­trict court in New Jer­sey grant­ed PennEast’s notice of con­dem­na­tion to take, through the fed­er­al government’s pow­er of emi­nent domain, pri­vate­ly-owned prop­er­ty and state-pre­served land for use in con­struct­ing, oper­at­ing and main­tain­ing the Pen­nEast pipeline. The Fifth Amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment the author­i­ty to take pri­vate prop­er­ty for pub­lic use,” if the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment pro­vides just com­pen­sa­tion” to the prop­er­ty own­ers. The fed­er­al dis­trict court judge held that Pen­nEast, armed with the FERC cer­tifi­cate of pub­lic neces­si­ty, was vest­ed with the fed­er­al government’s emi­nent domain pow­ers and could imme­di­ate­ly pos­sess the state-pre­served land for the pub­lic use” of con­struct­ing, main­tain­ing and oper­at­ing the pipeline; the issue of just com­pen­sa­tion” would be dealt with later.

  • Jan­u­ary 2019

    In Jan­u­ary 2019, New Jer­sey Attor­ney Gen­er­al Gre­w­al appealed the dis­trict court’s deci­sion to the Third Cir­cuit Court of Appeals. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Gre­w­al not­ed that New Jer­sey is enti­tled to sov­er­eign immu­ni­ty under the Eleventh Amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion and thus the dis­trict court did not prop­er­ly have juris­dic­tion to hear PennEast’s notice of condemnation. 

  • March 2019

    In March 2019, the Third Cir­cuit sided with Attor­ney Gen­er­al Gre­w­al in issu­ing a pre­lim­i­nary injunc­tion that pro­hibits Pen­nEast from pro­ceed­ing to take the state-pre­served land or begin phys­i­cal con­struc­tion of the pipeline as lit­i­ga­tion con­tin­ues over whether the com­pa­ny can take the state-pre­served land.

  • April 2019

    In April 2019, New Jer­sey Attor­ney Gen­er­al Gre­w­al filed the state’s mer­its brief in the Third Cir­cuit action chal­leng­ing the dis­trict court rul­ing that allows Pen­nEast to pos­sess the state-pre­served land to con­struct the pipeline. The brief not­ed that New Jersey’s sov­er­eign immu­ni­ty pro­hibits Pen­nEast from con­demn­ing the state’s prop­er­ty as the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment can­not del­e­gate its exemp­tion from state sov­er­eign immu­ni­ty to a pri­vate party.

  • Sep­tem­ber 2019

    In Sep­tem­ber 2019, the Third Cir­cuit sided with New Jer­sey Attor­ney Gen­er­al Gre­w­al in vacat­ing the dis­trict court’s deci­sion. The court held that New Jersey’s sov­er­eign immu­ni­ty under the Eleventh Amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion barred PennEast’s attempt to extend the fed­er­al government’s emi­nent domain pow­ers to con­demn state land to build the pipeline.

  • Novem­ber 2019

    In Novem­ber 2019, the Third Cir­cuit denied PennEast’s en banc rehear­ing request.

  • Jan­u­ary 2020

    In addi­tion to seek­ing rehear­ing from the Third Cir­cuit, Pen­nEast asked FERC to weigh in. And in Jan­u­ary 2020, FERC grant­ed PennEast’s peti­tion for declara­to­ry order. In a split deci­sion, FERC dis­agreed with the Third Cir­cuit, assert­ing that a cer­tifi­cate holder’s right to exer­cise emi­nent domain author­i­ty under the Nat­ur­al Gas Act (NGA) is not limited.

  • Feb­ru­ary 2020

    In Feb­ru­ary 2020, Pen­nEast filed a peti­tion with the Supreme Court to review the Third Circuit’s deci­sion. New Jer­sey Attor­ney Gen­er­al Gre­w­al, in June 2020, filed a brief in oppo­si­tion to the Supreme Court review­ing the Third Circuit’s deci­sion. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Gre­w­al not­ed that the peti­tion for writ of cer­tio­rari should be denied because the Third Circuit’s deci­sion was well rea­soned and there is no split among the courts of appeals on the issue.

  • Decem­ber 2020

    In Decem­ber 2020, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion filed an ami­cus brief on behalf of the Unit­ed States, urg­ing that the Supreme Court grant the peti­tion and review the Third Circuit’s deci­sion. The brief claimed that the appeals court deci­sion was incor­rect and war­rant­ed review.

New York

2017-2021

The New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al suc­cess­ful­ly rep­re­sent­ed the New York State Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion (NYS­DEC) before a Sec­ond Cir­cuit Court of Appeals chal­lenge to NYS­DEC’s denial of a state water qual­i­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion under sec­tion 401 of the Clean Water Act for the pro­posed nat­ur­al gas Con­sti­tu­tion Pipeline. Con­struc­tion of the 100-mile pipeline would have impact­ed more than 250 streams and more than 80 acres of wetlands.

  • Jan­u­ary 2018

    In Jan­u­ary 2018, Con­sti­tu­tion Pipeline Com­pa­ny filed a peti­tion with the Supreme Court to review the Sec­ond Circuit’s deci­sion. The New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al opposed the request for cert, not­ing in the brief that the case did not raise any major juris­dic­tion­al issues. Addi­tion­al­ly, the New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al defend­ed NYS­DEC’s denial of the request­ed water qual­i­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion based on Constitution’s refusal to pro­vide infor­ma­tion about how it would min­i­mize adverse water qual­i­ty impacts. In April 2018, the Supreme Court agreed with the New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al and denied cert.

  • Jan­u­ary 2018

    Sim­i­lar­ly, Con­sti­tu­tion attempt­ed to secure a declara­to­ry order from the Fed­er­al Ener­gy Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion (FERC) that NYS­DEC had waived its author­i­ty to deny a water qual­i­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for the project based on the argu­ment that NYS­DEC failed to act with­in the statute’s time lim­it. In Jan­u­ary 2018, FERC denied the request for a declara­to­ry order, rul­ing that NYS­DEC had act­ed with­in the statute’s time frame. 

  • July 2018

    In July 2018, FERC sub­se­quent­ly reject­ed Constitution’s request for a rehear­ing for the same rea­son. Unde­terred, Con­sti­tu­tion filed a peti­tion for review of FERC’s denial of the rehear­ing request with the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals.

  • Feb­ru­ary 2019

    In Feb­ru­ary 2019, the D.C. Cir­cuit grant­ed FERC’s request to remand the case to the Com­mis­sion in light of the D.C. Circuit’s recent deci­sion in a sep­a­rate, but sim­i­lar case.

  • August 2019

    In August 2019, FERC denied NYSDEC’s motion to stay con­struc­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion pipeline. Rely­ing on the D.C. Circuit’s recent deci­sion in Hoopa Val­ley Tribe v. FERC (see Cal­i­for­nia” on the Hydropow­er Projects page), FERC deter­mined that NYSDEC’s denial of the state water cer­tifi­cate fell out­side the one-year deci­sion time­line out­lined in the Clean Water Act. Thus, NYS­DEC had waived its author­i­ty under sec­tion 401 of the Clean Water Act to issue or deny a water qual­i­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for the project. In Decem­ber 2019, FERC denied a request for rehear­ing of the August 2019 denial, affirm­ing its find­ing that NYS­DEC had waived its sec­tion 401 author­i­ty to issue or deny a water qual­i­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. That same month NYS­DEC filed a peti­tion for review with the Sec­ond Cir­cuit, seek­ing to set aside as unlaw­ful, unrea­son­able and arbi­trary and capri­cious FERC’s August 2019 order and Decem­ber 2019 denial of NYSDEC’s rehear­ing request.

  • Feb­ru­ary 2020

    In Feb­ru­ary 2020, plans for Con­sti­tu­tion Pipeline were can­celed amid con­cerns from the project’s part­ners and investors about eco­nom­ic feasibility.

  • April 2020

    In April 2020, the Sec­ond Cir­cuit grant­ed NYSDEC’s motion to hold the appeal in abeyance until FERC’s cer­tifi­cate for the pipeline expires in Decem­ber 2020.

Vir­ginia

2017-2021

  • Decem­ber 2018

    In Decem­ber 2018, Vir­ginia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Mark Her­ring filed a law­suit in state court against Moun­tain Val­ley Pipeline LLC for repeat­ed vio­la­tions of state and fed­er­al envi­ron­men­tal laws. The law­suit alleges that the com­pa­ny, in seek­ing to con­struct and oper­ate a 300-mile nat­ur­al gas pipeline through West Vir­ginia and Vir­ginia, act­ed ille­gal­ly by dis­charg­ing pol­lu­tants into pro­tect­ed water with­out a per­mit; fail­ing to main­tain and repair ero­sion and sed­i­ment con­trol struc­tures; and fail­ing to install clean water diver­sions. In all, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Her­ring brought ten claims against Moun­tain Val­ley Pipeline and sought a court order to force the com­pa­ny to com­ply with envi­ron­men­tal laws and regulations.

  • Decem­ber 2019

    In Decem­ber 2019, the Vir­ginia state court approved the con­sent decree between the state and the Moun­tain Val­ley Pipeline. Under the terms of the con­sent decree, the Moun­tain Val­ley Pipeline must pro­vide con­fir­ma­tion that alleged instances of non-com­pli­ance with state and fed­er­al envi­ron­men­tal laws have been cor­rect­ed and the project must remain in com­pli­ance with such laws. The com­pa­ny was also assessed fines that it must pay to the state.