Energy. Environment. Economy.

New York State denies permit to Constitution Pipeline, halting construction

.Megan Holleran stands by a sign on her family's land. The Hollerans lost their court battle to save their maple trees from eminent domain seizure. The trees are being cut to make way for the new Constitution Pipeline.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

Megan Holleran stands by a sign on her family's land. The Hollerans lost their court battle to save their maple trees from eminent domain seizure. The trees were cut to make way for the new Constitution Pipeline, which has been blocked by New York.

New York State on Friday denied a crucial water-quality permit to builders of a controversial natural gas pipeline, halting its construction through about 100 miles of that state and another 25 miles of Pennsylvania.

The decision was hailed as a big victory by environmental campaigners, who have argued that the Constitution Pipeline would destroy swathes of open land in order to pump fracked gas from Pennsylvania’s gas-rich Marcellus Shale to markets in New York and New England.

“This is a critical turning point for pipeline battles across the nation,” said Maya van Rossum, who heads the Pennsylvania-based environmental group Delaware Riverkeeper Network, which opposes the development of thousands of miles of pipeline in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.

She argued that the decision shows that states have a right to stand up to the pipeline industry, and to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which approved the project, and is seen by critics as a rubber stamp for the gas industry. A spokeswoman for FERC could not be reached for comment.

“This is a tremendous inspiration for the public, for other states and an important emphasis for the power and importance of the law,” Van Rossum said.

Christopher Stockton, a spokesman for the Williams Companies, which leads the pipeline project, said the company is examining the reasons for the decision and is considering its options, which may include a court appeal.

“We are very disappointed by today’s decision,” Stockton said in statement. “We remain absolutely committed to building this important energy infrastructure project.”

The American Petroleum Institute said the decision was bad for the economy and for gas consumers, who would have paid less for their gas if the pipeline had gone ahead.

Marty Durbin, the API’s Executive Director for Market Development, called the decision by the administration of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, “another example of politics at its worst.”

“This decision impacts not only the residents of New York but also the families and businesses in the surrounding states whose consumers currently pay the highest energy costs in the country,” Durbin said in a statement.

New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation said the Constitution Pipeline failed to meet the state’s water-quality standards because it would cross ecologically sensitive areas, old-growth forests and some 250 streams.

The DEC said Williams had refused a request for a detailed analysis of its plans to bury the pipeline at a sufficient depth beneath the 250 streams.

Although the DEC’s decision has halted the pipeline for now, it cannot reverse the clearance of trees on some Pennsylvania parcels, which had already begun even though the company had not obtained all the necessary permits from New York State.

The affected properties include 23 acres in New Milford Township, Susquehanna County, which has been owned since the 1950s by the family of Catherine Holleran.

In early March, crews cut about three acres of trees on the property after Williams won a fight to take the land by eminent domain.

Holleran, 59, called the New York decision a “bitter-sweet” victory that may stop the pipeline but could not bring back the trees that her family used to harvest sap for maple syrup.

“We tried to tell Williams and Cabot that this might happen before they cut our trees, and why couldn’t they please wait but they insisted on doing it anyway, ours and many other peoples,” she said. “And now it’s for nothing, it looks like they are not going to get their go-ahead at all.”

In December 2014, New York State banned fracking for natural gas.


  • Fracked

    Sad for the PA families who suffered such a loss….I applaud NY for another decision that puts their environment first. What’s with PA??? Must be something in the water!!

    • Penn

      The business of selling energy will be redirected to exportation. The landowners under lease in Pennsylvania will be earning royalties for decades.

  • Penn

    Good news. The shorter pipelines to the coast will be upgraded and the Natural Gas that would have gone to New England will be Compressed and Exported. Once the Exportation Infrastructure is completed, there will never ever be a pipeline to take energy to New England. The anti-American Energy freaks can pay more and more for their energy, or they will move to warmer areas of the country. The Frozen Desert of New England will be the result of the Democrats in Control there. Good news.

  • Evan Strong

    Why not let states stop interstate highways as well since they bring pollution and traffic? If states can shut down anything they want then interstate infrastructure projects of all kinds are in danger. I am all for states rights but this is one area where the Federal government needs to have priority when it is deemed for the greater good.

  • Louis E.

    It would be great if Williams is forced to re-plant maple trees!

    • c_chandler

      i hope they have to replant and pay for the loss f this business’ income for 3 or more years.

      • Erik Eriksen

        sorry pookie.. they got their compensation already…

        • Kimberly Cummings Kann

          There was no easement agreement. No compensation.

  • Erik Eriksen

    they don’t want the delivery systems in their yard?

    don’t deliver ANY energy products to them at all…

    • c_chandler

      you creep…if it was your business they were destroying, you’d be crying.

      • Erik Eriksen

        waaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh… says the typical NIMBY maggot….

  • John Henders

    It won’t be long before the simpletons against natural gas & pipelines have to loose properties for eminent domain to allow this brilliant state to take fields for acres of solar power panels, or maybe just the electrical cables they need !

  • c_chandler

    typical arrogants at the top fail to listen to the lowly, like the scientist at NASA that told them the o-rings would not hold at the temperature.

  • rebeccaroter

    stateimpacts coverage is so retro………………….just like public health studies…after the fact and damage done.

  • Robert

    One last delay for political purposes, it’ll go in the ground way too much money involved. You people actually think you won? I’ve seen this for 7 years now, they all eventually get built. They’re building one right now across the Hudson River you didn’t stop that you won’t stop this one either. As far as the maple syrup lady, northern Maine syrup is way better anyway sorry to say better trees up north.

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