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ALBANY — The stalled Constitution Pipeline project is hoping to get a new lease on life by asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue the approvals it needs to move forward after state regulators rejected its request for needed permits to cross waterways.

In documents filed with FERC this week, the pipeline company said the state Department of Environmental Conservation "unreasonably delayed and protracted the federal filing process."

The $1 billion natural gas transmission project — designed to have shale gas harvested in northeast Pennsylvania sent to a compressor station in Schoharie County, and crossing hundreds of parcels in Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie counties — has been delayed since April 2016. That is when the planners of the pipeline were told by the DEC that its water permits were denied by the state agency. 

In the legal papers submitted by Stephen Hatridge, an attorney for Williams Pipeline Services, the company that is the lead investor in the project, Constitution alleged that the state regulators took no action on the request for two years and eight months after the application was made in August 2013.

Hatridge argued that the DEC effectively waived its authority over the interstate pipeline by delaying a decision on the needed permit.

The lawyer also cited FERC's decision last month that upended the DEC's denial of water permits to the Millennium Pipeline Co.'s proposed 7.8-mile transmission addition in Orange County. The federal agency ruled in that case that the state regulators failed to make a decision on that request within a one-year deadline set by the federal Clean Water Act.

Hatridge also revealed in the papers filed with FERC that the pipeline company has already spent $380 million to develop the transmission project and has lined up all the necessary easements to complete the system.

The latest maneuvering bolstered the hopes of advocates for the Constitutional Pipeline.

"Today’s petition shows precisely why clear and consistent regulation is essential to economic growth and why proven projects should be approved," said Darren Suarez, director of government affairs for the Business Council of New York State.

Suarez called on officials in the Cuomo and Trump administrations to "come together and build this important infrastructure project without further delay."

But Anne Marie Garti, an environmental lawyer and a founding member of the opposition group Stop the Pipeline, contended there is no basis to reverse the DEC's denial of the water permits.

"If FERC follows its regulations, and its own precedent, then it must rule in favor of NYSDEC and against the Constitution Pipeline Company," she said in an email. "DEC acted within one year of the receipt of CP's April 2015 application, just as the Clean Water Act and FERC's regulations require. In addition, CP should have asked FERC about a possible waiver before DEC denied its application on April 22, 2016. Now it's too late." 

The pipeline company said in its petition to FERC that it withdrew its initial application for the water permit in May 2014 as part of a "good faith" effort to cooperate with the DEC after the agency expressed disagreement with the proposed route in its comments to FERC.

FERC awarded the project a certificate of public convenience — amounting to a green light from the federal agency — in December 2014, when it determined that all of the project's environmental impacts could be mitigated to "acceptable" levels.

The pipeline company's request to have the DEC denial overturned won the support of a trade union group.

"Not only is the project right for New York, but Constitution bent over backwards to meet the demands of state regulators years ago." said Armand E. Sabitoni, general secretary treasurer and New England regional manager for Laborers International Union of North America.IUNA.

He said the project would put thousands of people to work, though critics of the pipeline argue most jobs would be temporary and only a handful of people will still be employed locally after it is completed.

It was not immediately clear Thursday when FERC will act on the new petition from Constitution Pipeline.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites.

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