The Atlantic Sunrise project, a nearly $3 billion pipeline expansion, cleared a regulatory hurdle last week after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that the scheme would result in a “less-than-significant” environmental impact.
The FERC’s decision represents a victory for the pipeline’s owner Williams Partners, which plans to invest approximately $1.9 billion in the project.
“The final Environmental Impact Statement underscores our collaborative efforts to design the Atlantic Sunrise project in a manner that minimises environmental impacts, while fulfilling the critical need of connecting consumers all along the East Coast with abundant, cost-effective Pennsylvania natural gas supplies,” said Rory Miller, senior vice-president of Williams Partners’ Atlantic-Gulf operating area.
Atlantic Sunrise looks to expand the 10,500-mile Transco pipeline, which transports natural gas from the Gulf Coast to states on the Eastern Seaboard, adding 199.4 miles of pipeline. Williams expects the commission’s final decision on the project early this year and hopes to begin construction by mid-2017.
Williams has said the project’s construction will support an estimated 8,000 jobs in 10 Pennsylvania counties, giving the area’s economy a $1.6 billion boost. Some environmental groups, however, oppose the expansion, claiming it will disrupt farms, woodlands and homes, and could put the area’s groundwater at risk. The FERC weighed that any adverse impact would be manageable.
“The FERC staff concludes that approval of the project would result in some adverse environmental impacts,” the final EIS stated. “However, most of these impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of Transco’s proposed mitigation and the additional measures recommended in the final EIS.”
The proposed project will expand existing pipeline in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina and aims to increase natural gas deliveries by 1.7 billion cubic feet per day.
The news comes six months after Williams Companies, parent of Williams Partners, went through a management reshuffle following its $37.7 billion failed merger with Energy Transfer Equities, which would have created the largest energy infrastructure group in the US. The highest-profile move saw Kathleen Cooper, formerly a director and audit committee member, replace Frank MacInnis as board chairman of the group.