New York Denies Constitution Pipeline 401 Water Certification

By Katy Dunlap

After extensive review and significant input from stakeholders including TU, the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) denied Clean Water Act 401 Water Quality Certification for the proposed Constitution Pipeline on April 22, Earth Day.

Constitution Pipeline, a 124-mile proposed interstate pipeline, beginning in northeastern Pennsylvania and ending near Schoharie County in New York, received its federal authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in December 2014. However, construction of interstate pipelines cannot begin until a company receives all other required federal and state permits. That is where New York’s 401 Water Quality Certification comes into play.

TU and its New York Council have been engaged on this pipeline since 2012, weighing in during different stages of federal review as well as during New York’s 401 Water Quality Certificate review. Construction of this pipeline would have occurred largely in a new right-of-way that would impact 250 streams across New York.

In denying the 401 certification, DEC pointed to Constitution’s proposed plan to construct the pipeline in sensitive ecological areas, including trout spawning streams. Echoing concerns that TU raised in public hearings and in our comments (See comments here: PDF iconConstitutioncomments.pdf), DEC based its denial on the failure of Constitution to provide a comprehensive and site-specific analysis of how deep it would bury the pipe beneath all 250 streams. Pipes can become exposed in stream beds if not buried deeply enough affecting stream channel stability, and fixing the problem after-the-fact can lead to further damage to the stream.

While FERC approval of interstate pipelines often seems like a foregone conclusion, New York has demonstrated that impacts to trout streams cannot be ignored.

Katy Dunlap is the Director of TU's eastern water program.


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