Second Circuit Validates FERC’s Environmental Review of a New Natural Gas Pipeline Construction Project to Carry Marcellus Shale Gas
In an unpublished memorandum order, the Second Circuit upheld FERC’s approval of a 39-mile natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania without first preparing a full Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”). In considering the pipeline application, the Commission prepared an Environmental Assessment and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact, concluding that a full EIS was not required. In its analysis, the Commission considered the development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserve, but concluded that the impacts of the production development were not sufficiently causally-related to the pipeline project to warrant further and more in-depth analysis. The Commission also considered other impacts on the environment resulting from the pipeline development and required the applicant, Central New York Oil and Gas Company, to take steps to mitigate these issues.
Environmental groups sought review of the Commission’s decision to not prepare a full EIS, arguing that because the construction and operation of the pipeline would likely encourage new drilling in an undeveloped part of Pennsylvania, the Commission should have prepared an EIS addressing the environmental and public health issues that would result from the potential new drilling. The Second Circuit denied this petition, finding that the Commission had thoroughly considered the issues and taken the requisite “hard look,” and that the decision to not complete a full EIS was not arbitrary or capricious. The ruling lacks precedential effect and was released as a summary order, not a formal opinion.
For a copy of the order, available on the website for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, click here.