Opponents declare victory over Constitution Pipeline
By Patsy Nicosia
A federal appeals court has ruled against Constitution Pipeline in a suit filed after the Department of Environmental Conservation effectively stopped the controversial project in April 2106.
And while opponents to the $875 million natural gas pipeline are celebrating the unanimous ruling Friday by the New York City-based Second Court of Appeals, Constitution has indicated it will be continuing its fight in a different federal court.
“It’s a relief to everyone here,” said Bob Nied of Richmondville, a longtime opponent of the pipeline first proposed in 2012.
“It’s the culmination of years of fighting and it confirms that DEC made the right decision. It’s been an extremely difficult time for the families involved and I’m glad it’s finally resolved.”
In 2016, DEC turned down Constitution’s application for a required water quality certificate after state officials said Constitution had refused to provide requested information on alternative routes.
Constitution answered by suing the state in federal court.
In Friday’s decision, that federal court concluded that DEC’s denial of the water qualify permit “was not arbitrary or capricious”—a ruling applauded by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who represented DEC in the case.
“Today’s decision marks a major win for New Yorkers and the state’s right to take the actions necessary to protect the public and environment,” Mr. Schneiderman said.
Not everyone agrees, however.
Both the Laborers International Union of North America and the Business Council of New York State have issued statements calling the decision a blow to good-paying jobs and affordable power.
“Although we are disappointed with the court’s decision, we remain confident that the Constitution Pipeline will provide a bridge to New York’s energy future, and should be approved and built,” said the Business Council’s Darren Suarez.
“We urge New York State to work with the Constitution team to find a way forward…”.
In Friday’s ruling, the court found that New York is entitled to “conduct its own review of the Constitution project’s likely effects on New York’s waterbodies and whether those effects would comply with the state’s water quality standards.”
However, in answer to Constitution’s argument that DEC didn’t make its decision in a timely manner under Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rules, the Second Circuit found it didn’t have jurisdiction.
That argument would need to go before the Washington, DC federal court, which does have jurisdiction of the FERC.
Constitution has indicted it will pursue that issue.
“In today’s decision, the Second Circuit recognized the jurisdiction of the DC Circuit and the DC Circuit recently acknowledged FERC’s authority to make the ultimate decision…” Constitution said in a written statement.
“While we would have preferred an immediate path to construction, we are pleased with the court’s resolution of this jurisdictional issue.”
Mr. Nied said he sees that appeal as unlikely to be successful.
He also called for the issue of eminent domain proceedings against some of the landowners along the proposed 120-plus mile route to be put be resolved to finally and completely put the pipeline issue to bed.
Constitution is a project of Williams, Cabot Oil & Gas og Houston, Texas, among others.