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WAWAYANDA - Federal regulators gave Millennium Pipeline Co. permission Friday to start building the 7.8-mile natural gas line that will supply the Competitive Power Ventures plant, pushing the project forward even as a dispute continues over the state’s denial of permits for that pipeline.

The notice to proceed, issued to Millennium by a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission official, was a victory for Millennium and the company building the $900 million power plant in Wawayanda, which is largely built and was due to be tested soon. The state Department of Environmental Conservation had denied Millennium’s permits for the gas pipe about two months ago, arguing the company needed to document the potential effects of the greenhouse gases that the 650-megawatt power station will release. FERC overruled that decision two weeks later, and DEC is challenging FERC’s ruling.

The DEC rehearing request, and a separate one filed by environmental groups opposed to the CPV plant, were still pending when the FERC official declared on Friday that construction may start.

Michelle Hook, a Millennium spokeswoman, said afterward that the company hopes to begin work in early November and expects to finish in about six months, depending on the winter weather.

Pramilla Malick, leader of an Orange County citizens group that has fought the power plant, called the FERC official’s decision “an unprecedented abuse of process and law,” and urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Basil Seggos, the state’s environmental conservation commissioner, “to use the police powers of the state to protect our water and prevent any construction activity.” She also asked them to suspend the CPV plant’s permits.

DEC officials had no immediate response to the FERC decision. They had asked the commission to withhold permission for Millennium to start construction while the DEC’s challenge involving the pipeline permits was pending.

 

The disputed pipeline will cross Minisink and Wawayanda and carry natural gas from the Millennium Pipeline, which starts in western New York and crosses through Sullivan County and southern Orange County. Construction is expected to cost about $57 million and will use a method known as horizontal directional drilling to avoid disturbing streams and wetlands.

Because the pipe isn’t built yet, CPV officials planned to use the plant’s secondary fuel source, oil, to begin testing the plant by next month. They told the Times Herald-Record this month that they must test the plant in order to be allowed to connect it to the power grid, but are unlikely to begin generating and selling electricity until the gas line is connected. The plant construction was expected to be done in early 2018.

“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will seek a stay of FERC’s ruling and is evaluating all options in order to protect the environment,” said the DEC in a statement Friday. “FERC’s decision today encroaches on state’s rights, runs counter to the federal Clean Water Act, and prevents states from protecting precious natural resources.”

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