WASHINGTON — Unless opponents pursue a federal agency’s decision in court, construction of the Independence Pipeline will go forward.
After a three-year approval process, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved certificates July 12, 2000, for the Independence Pipeline Company and to the ANR Pipeline Company for its related SupplyLink Project.
The proposed $678 million natural gas pipeline consists of approximately 400 miles of 36-inch pipe, extending across northern Ohio from ANR’s existing compressor station in Defiance, Ohio, to facilities in Leidy, Pa., owned by Williams’ Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Corporation and National Fuel Gas Company.
The pipeline, which dissects 18 Ohio and Pennsylvania counties, would transport up to 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day in the winter.
In December, FERC questioned whether a market exists for the project and required Independence and ANR to secure contracts for 35 percent of the pipeline’s total capacity with non-affiliate shippers before it would issue a certificate.
On June 26 and July 6, Independence filed agreements for 38 percent of proposed pipeline capacity and ANR filed for 78 percent of its capacity.
With those in place, FERC said the filings showed sufficient need. Before any construction may begin, however, the Independence and ANR gas contracts must have no form of “out” clauses.
Joe Martucci, ANR manager of corporate communications, said projected completion of the project is November 2002.
The certificates include an unprecedented number of environmental conditions, first unveiled in December.
The pipeline companies are required to post a restoration bond should money be needed to restore sites along the pipeline. The companies are also required to hire a third-party monitor, or ombudsman, to check compliance with the commission’s conditions.
This is also the first time FERC has denied permission for construction to begin on a piecemeal basis as easements are obtained. All environmental permits must be obtained before FERC will let construction proceed.
Atty. Bill Smith, counsel for the Ohio-Pennsylvania Landowners Association which opposes the pipeline, is recommending the association request a rehearing at FERC, questioning the manner in which the contracts were accepted indicating market need in the Northeast.
Association member Gordon Bury of Wayne County said there are too many questions about the decision for it to go unchallenged.
“You wonder if anyone at FERC has read Webster’s dictionary,” Bury said. “They tend to throw out terms that have no substance, like ‘binding.'” He questioned whether the contracts used to meet FERC’s requirement for market support were indeed binding.
The landowners’ board is meeting this week to determine its course of action.
Smith said there is also an option of appealing the decision directly in the D.C. circuit court of appeals. Although he indicated precedence shows few reversals of FERC decisions, “this one might stand a good chance of reversal,” on a broader theoretical concept of free market economy and the need for eminent domain.
“If we’re under a free market economy,” Smith said,” why is anyone given the right of eminent domain. They should have to fend for themselves.”