Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline
The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline (ASP) will move Marcellus Shale gas from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania to as far as south as Alabama. The ASP is a Williams Energy Partners project, which currently operates the Transco system (a network of over 10,000 miles of pipeline). ASP will consist of compression and looping of the Transco Leidy Line in Pennsylvania along with a greenfield pipeline segment, referred to as the Central Penn Line, connecting the northeastern Marcellus producing region to the Transco mainline in southeastern Pennsylvania. In addition, existing Transco facilities are being added or modified to allow gas to flow bi-directionally. The line cuts through 10 central Pennsylvania counties (Columbia, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Clinton and Lycoming).
FERC issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the project on Feb. 3, 2017. And, despite active litigation that questions permits issued by the states as well as certification from FERC, construction began in March 2017 and, in October 2018, FERC allowed for the project to go into service.
Delaware Riverkeeper Network has pursued two avenues of litigation in order to prevent this destructive pipeline, including a case that was just applied for certification to the Supreme Court of the United States. The first case brings a challenge to a permit issued by Pennsylvania for the project and is still pending in front of the Third circuit. In this case, Delaware Riverkeeper Network claims that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection failed to allow for public partition in the issuance of a NPDES permit for the project, in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
The second case, first filed at both the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board and the U,S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, alleges that PADEP improperly issued a Clean Water Action Section 401 Water Quality Certification for the project, and that Delaware Riverkeeper Network, as well as other groups appealing similar natural gas permits, have the right to appeal the 401 Certification to the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, the state administrative body. The second conflict, whether the appeal of a permit goes to the U.S. Court of Appeals or to the state administrative adjudicatory body, arises due to language in the Natural Gas Act that requires permits issued for natural gas projects to be appealed to U.S. Courts of Appeals. In argument in front of the Third Circuit, Delaware Riverkeeper Network argued that under the Natural Gas Act, the Clean Water Act, the federal constitution, and Pennsylvania’s laws and regulations, any permits issued by the state of Pennsylvania should be first appealed to the PA Environmental Hearing Board (EHB). While the EBH agreed with the DRN, in the case filed at the EHB, the Third Circuit did not. Instead, the Third Circuit found that the EHB has no authority to review the issuance of permits under the NGA. This holding is contrary to fundamentals of federalism, the Clean Water Act, and Pennsylvania law. Further, it is contradictory to holdings in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and within the Third Circuit itself.
After receiving the opinion from the Third Circuit, Delaware Riverkeeper Network felt that it was necessary to appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. On January 9, 2019, Delaware Riverkeeper Network submitted a petition for certification to the Supreme Court of the United States arguing both that Third Circuit was wrong in its interpretation and that if this decision is left to stand, it will create uncertainty for states in the Third Circuit (which includes Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) as well as nationally as it conflicts with other opinions issues by the First Circuit (Berkshire Envtl. Action Team, Inc. v. Tenn. Gas Pipeline Co., LLC, 851 F.3d 105 (1st Cir. 2017) and with an opinion issued by the Third Circuit itself (Twp. of Bordentown v. FERC, 903 F.3d 234 (3d Cir. 2018).
Below are some photos of monitoring and community watchdogging underway at the Transco Williams Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline. DRN has trained over 50 volunteers to document construction conditions over the last few months. These pictures were taken in the vicinity of a trout stream located in Schuylkill County after the landowner called us with concerns and complaints.