Williams Tries an End-Run Around NY DEC for Constitution Permit

Does Williams have an “ace in the hole” with respect to the Constitution Pipeline? The Constitution, a ~$900 million, 124-mile pipeline planned to run from Susquehanna County, PA into Upstate New York, was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in December 2014 (see FERC Issues Final Approval for Constitution Pipeline in PA/NY). After a year and a half of delays from the New York State Dept. of Conservation (DEC), an organization now corrupted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the DEC capriciously denied stream crossing permits for the project (see NY Gov. Cuomo Refuses to Grant Permits for Constitution Pipeline). Williams, the builder of the project, subsequently sued in federal court to force the state to issue the permits. The outcome of that lawsuit is due any month now (see Constitution Pipeline Still Waiting on “Biggie” Court Decision). However, Williams is now attempting another strategy, parallel to their lawsuit, that may grant them game, set and match. The stream crossing permits withheld by the NY DEC are permits issued under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act. The DEC has the (delegated from the federal government) responsibility for issuing or denying Water Quality Certification (WQC) under Section 401. What if the feds were to snatch back that responsibility for themselves? Williams is asking the Trump White House to have the Army Corps of Engineers step in and grant the WQC for the Constitution under Section 401–as a replacement or substitute for the DEC. Such a move is allowed under the law–if a state refuses to act within a “reasonable” time period. If the Army Corps does step in and grant the Constitution a WQC, it would, in a word, emasculate the DEC and strip them of a great deal of their power–something we’ve previously warned about (see Bloomberg Predicts Court Will Strip NY’s Right to Stop Constitution). Will it work?…

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