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Challenging the Interstate Constitution Gas Pipeline

Fall Brook in Susquehanna County. The pipeline and access roads will disturb hundreds of acres of land and will cut across forests, watersheds, and special protection waters.

Fall Brook in Susquehanna County. The pipeline and access roads will disturb hundreds of acres of land and will cut across forests, watersheds, and special protection waters.

Photo courtesy of Nicholas A. Tonelli

What's at Stake

A 124-mile natural gas pipeline is proposed to run through portions of New York and Pennsylvania, raising concerns that the project will increase fracking and threaten local air, water, and wildlife. Earthjustice intervened on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups to challenge the pipeline.

Case Overview

The proposed Constitution Pipeline—a joint venture between oil and gas company subsidiaries Williams Partners Operating, Cabot Pipeline Holdings, Piedmont Constitution Pipeline Company, and Capitol Energy Ventures—would transport natural gas from receipt points in Susquehanna County in Pennsylvania through Broome, Chenango, Delaware, and Schoharie Counties in New York to existing pipeline systems.

The 124 miles of pipeline and additional miles of access roads will disturb hundreds of acres of land and will cut across forests, watersheds, and special protection waters. The resulting forest fragmentation could harm endangered Indiana bats and vulnerable migratory birds. In addition, the compressor stations at either end of the proposed pipeline present a threat to air quality and public health.

Aided by the controversial high volume hydraulic fracking process and regulatory vacuum at both the state and federal level, gas drilling in Pennsylvania has increased exponentially in recent years. The pipeline could spur this already frantic pace of gas drilling and fracking—along with the air, water, and climate pollution that accompanies such development—and would lay the groundwork for industry to expand operations in New York. The impacts associated with this industrial activity include: spills of diesel fuel and fracking chemicals, methane migration into groundwater; contamination of waterways with fracking wastewater; fragmentation of intact forest habitat; and the industrialization of formerly rural landscapes.

Earthjustice intervened in proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups to protect communities from the adverse impacts of the project. In addition to the coalition represented by Earthjustice, hundreds of residents of the counties through which the project has been proposed to cut intervened in the FERC proceedings. The flurry of intervention filings is the latest sign that residents and advocates are prepared to fiercely challenge infrastructure projects that will allow more fracking-enabled gas development in the region.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which has raised concerns over the environmental impacts of the project, also intervened in the federal proceedings, indicating that the state agency intends to scrutinize the federal approval process.

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Case Updates