Tuesday, September 19, 2017

FERC overrules state regulatory department that tried to halt construction of a pipeline

Pipelines may have a smoother path to approval now that a newly reconstituted Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has established a new legal precedent for its powers.

"Leaders of blue states such as New York and California have positioned themselves as bulwarks against Trump administration efforts to roll back environmental regulations. Where the federal government steps away, these governors say, states will step in," Dino Grandoni reports for The Washington Post. But FERC, which approves permits for gas and oil pipelines, has asserted federal authority over states' rights in one such case, possibly setting a precedent for expanded authority.

The New York State Department of Conservation had denied a permit needed by the Millennium Pipeline Company to begin construction on the Valley Lateral Project. But last week, FERC ruled that the state of New York could not halt construction on the pipeline, saying that New York had taken too long to issue the permit and thereby waived its authority under the Clean Water Act.

The act was the first decision under FERC's new chairman, Neil Chatterjee, and may provide a hint of how FERC will rule in future cases now that it is fully staffed. Three seats on the commission had remained unfilled since President Trump's election, meaning FERC did not have the quorum it needed to approve new projects. Chatterjee is a longtime energy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. UPDATE: The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee approved Trump's appointments to the two remaining seats, Kevin McIntyre and Rich Glick, on Tuesday.

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