On March 3, 2015, FERC approved Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC’s (“Algonquin”) request to construct and operate its Algonquin Incremental Market Project (“AIM”) in New England. As proposed, AIM is a 37-mile pipeline that, along with associated compression facilities, would deliver 342,000 dth/day from existing receipt points in New York to Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In approving the project, FERC dismissed protesters’ environmental concerns, holding that the majority of AIM’s environmental impacts could be reduced through Algonquin’s mitigation plans.
On February 28, 2014, Algonquin filed its application for certificate authority with FERC. After the filing, FERC stated that it received “hundreds of comments support[ing] the proposed project…and hundreds of other comments and protests rais[ing] concerns over the AIM Project’s potential environmental impact and the potential economic impact on property values.” In addition to those protests, FERC also received comments that the AIM project was improperly segmented from other Algonquin projects in contradiction of a recent D.C. Circuit ruling (see June 10, 2014 edition of the WER), that the project’s pipeline diameter was oversized, and that the project’s proposed route posed a safety risk due to its location near a nuclear power plant.
In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, FERC Staff prepared and issued a final environmental impact statement (“EIS”), which concluded that if proposed mitigation techniques and Staff’s various recommendations are implemented, then most of AIM’s environmental impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels. FERC agreed with the conclusion in the EIS and approved the AIM.
In approving the AIM, FERC dismissed the protesters’ concerns with the proposed project. Specifically, FERC held that the project was not improperly segmented from other Algonquin projects in the northeast because those other projects are neither currently before FERC, nor were the projects in the same region of influence as the AIM. FERC also distinguished the segmentation issue from the recent segmentation ruling at the D.C. Circuit, stating that the Algonquin projects were not on a single mainline, nor under construction at the same time, as was the case in the D.C. Circuit ruling. FERC also disagreed with comments that AIM‘s pipeline diameter was oversized. FERC stated that its flow diagrams demonstrated that Algonquin’s current pipelines have no spare capacity, and that affected compressor stations are currently operated at 100 percent capacity during a winter peak day. Therefore, FERC concluded that the pipeline diameter was acceptable. With regard to AIM’s proposed proximity to the nuclear power plant, FERC held that the AIM’s location in relation to the facility would not propose an increased safety risk, citing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s determination that an explosion on AIM would not adversely affect the nuclear facility.
As noted above, FERC conditioned approval of the AIM on the implementation of Staff’s 32 environmental recommendations in the EIS. A copy of the order is available here.