Pipeline crews have started clearing trees again in preparation for the Williams Transco Leidy Southeast expansion after a judge denied an environmental group’s petition to halt the project.
A petition from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network halted work on the line for about a week while the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals considered its challenge of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s review of the pipeline’s expansion.
Late last week, judges dissolved the stay that barred Williams crews from cutting down trees and denied Delaware Riverkeeper’s petition, ruling that the group “has not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay.”
Tree cutting activities for the Skillman loop began today, March 23, in Montgomery Township. Transco’s tree clearing plan for the area starts at the northern end of the project at the sheep farm on Route 601, then continues south, traversing Montgomery Township and continuing into Princeton.
Last December, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved Williams Transco’s plans to add more than half a billion cubic feet per day to the Leidy Line section of its Transco gas line. The plan involves adding parallel loops to portions of the line in Mercer, Somerset and Hunterdon counties.
Environmental groups argued that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission failed to consider the cumulative environmental effects of the Leidy expansion along with other proposed pipeline projects in the region.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission argued that the Leidy expansion is not dependent on other projects and therefore its review was appropriate under the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to consider the full environmental effects of their actions.
Delaware Riverkeeper has vowed to continue the fight against what it characterizes as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s “illegal segmentation” of projects.
Last year, Delaware Riverkeeper successfully argued a similar case in the same court. In June, the court ruled the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had improperly segmented upgrades to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Northeast Pennsylvania and ordered it to take another look at how the project affected the land, air and water.
In early 2015, Delaware Riverkeeper, the Princeton Ridge Coalition and several individuals requested a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rehearing on Williams Transco’s Leidy project. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission agreed to consider the rehearing request but has taken no action since then.