Court Clears Way to Build MARC 1 Marcellus Pipeline in PA

A federal appeals court has cleared the way for the construction of the MARC 1 Marcellus Shale pipeline to be built in northeastern Pennsylvania. The court released a decision yesterday rejecting claims by “environmental” groups to stop the pipeline. Part of their argument revolved around “the broader impacts” caused by natural gas drilling—that is, pipelines make more drilling likely and that’s not a good thing (according to them). The court rejected that argument.

A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected a last-ditch bid by a coalition of environmental groups to stop the construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal energy regulators properly approved the 39-mile MARC 1 pipeline through Bradford, Sullivan and Lycoming counties. The decision clears the way for the pipeline to begin moving gas from the Marcellus Shale formation this fall.

"We have contended from the beginning that the MARC I Pipeline would be undertaken with the strongest commitment to environmental and ecological protections," said Bill Moler, an executive with Inergy Midstream LP of Kansas City, Mo.

Some landowners have been fighting the company building the pipeline, contending that Inergy subsidiary Central New York Oil & Gas refused to negotiate in good faith on either monetary compensation or the pipeline’s route. The Sierra Club and two local groups challenged a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to authorize construction, saying regulators should have performed a more thorough environmental assessment.

The New York-based appeals court said that FERC’s analysis of the pipeline’s impact on forests and migratory birds was sufficient, and that regulators "reasonably concluded" that broader impacts caused by natural gas development in the Marcellus should not factor into the analysis of the MARC 1 project.

An attorney for the company, William Demarest, said it’s highly unlikely either the full circuit court or the U.S. Supreme Court would agree to take on any appeal by the environmental groups.

"This was the final hurdle," he said. "I think the court felt it was appropriate to remove any lingering cloud that might be hanging over the project by making it clear that you are not going to have the rug pulled out from under you."*

MDN is happy that the pipeline will be built, but still not happy that pipelines are given eminent domain powers and can steamroller over landowners who may not want a pipeline across their land. Pipelines of this type are important, but they don’t (in MDN’s opinion) rise to the level of public utility with the right to condemn and take private land. Inergy should pay the landowners a fair (and generous) amount for their trouble.

*Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record/AP (Jun 12, 2012) – Federal court rules in favor of Pa. gas pipeline