Transco Leidy Southeast Expansion Project on Hold Until Federal Court Reviews Case

Transco pipeline construction in Hunterdon County.
Transco pipeline construction in Hunterdon County.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has granted an emergency stay requested by environmental groups to stop tree cutting for the Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company’s (Transco) Leidy Southeast Expansion project pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

Environmental groups argue that the cumulative impact of the pipeline project was not considered by the federal government under the National Environmental Policy Act when the project was approved.

As a result of a petition to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by environmental groups, the court is considering a petition that would deny the 42-inch parallel pipeline next to a branch of its existing Transco line.

Tree clearing that was planned to start last week has been put on hold because of the emergency stay.

“This is an important victory for the environment that upholds the integrity of the National Environmental Policy Act process and environmental reviews. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission violated the law and allowed them to segment pipelines in this environmentally sensitive area. This shows that the courts must step in because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission isn’t doing their job,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It’s very difficult to get a stay against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on a pipeline issue. That shows why this is stay is so important not only for Transco, but PennEast and other pipeline proposals.”

The Transco route would cross environmentally sensitive areas, streams and forests in Hunterdon, Somerset, and Mercer Counties.  The route crosses the Princeton Ridge, Sourland Mountains, and a number of preserved lands.

Last year, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline was denied a similar request which ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had violated environmental law when it treated one large expansion as four separate projects.

“This is the second time the courts have ruled against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on a pipeline issue. The New Jersey Sierra Club won case for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline, which would go through the Delaware Water Gap. The Sierra Club won the case because the Court ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission did not properly follow the National Environmental Policy Act and allowed the project to be segmented, instead of looking at all the impacts,” Tittel said. “This alone could be a basis for an appeal. We think the same thing happened here. This pipeline will promote fracking in Pennsylvania, polluting their water while also destroying wetlands and environmental sensitive features here in New Jersey.”

Tittel said there is no need for the pipeline.

“The purpose is to promote fracking and the burning of fossil fuels that impact clean water and promote climate change.  This pipeline is going to go through environmentally sensitive areas creating an ugly scar, adding to pollution, and putting people at risk,” he said. ” Just ask the people of Bellingham Washington, Burlingame, California and Edison, New Jersey. This line not only threatens the neighborhoods it passes through but threatens our environment.”

Tittel said the stay could have consequences for the more than six pipeline projects proposed in New Jersey.