Federal Court Upholds State’s Power to Protect Waterways From Destructive Pipelines

Pipelines like PennEast and Constitution threaten streams that provide drinking water, like Plum Brook in Raritan, NJ.
Posted August 18, 2017

Today, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), which denied a key water permit for the proposed Constitution gas pipeline. Constitution pipeline was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), but the project was also required to obtain water permits from NYSDEC.

The Clean Water Act gives state agencies like NYSDEC the opportunity to review projects that could affect the state’s water resources. Today’s federal court decision confirmed states’ important role in protecting their waterways and drinking water.

“As the court confirmed today, NYSDEC got it right when it determined that Constitution could not be constructed without irreparably harming water resources,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, ReThink Energy NJ and New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

“Today’s court ruling reaffirms that states have the authority to reject water quality permits for pipelines that don’t meet standards, even if they have federal approval. If FERC approves PennEast, New Jersey clearly has the power to stop it under the Clean Water Act.

Jennifer Danis, senior attorney, Eastern Environmental Law Center, added: “Even though Constitution was approved by FERC, it is the states that are the ultimate arbiters of environmental protections, and New Jersey’s environmental review is even more stringent than New York’s. For projects like the unneeded PennEast pipeline, we would expect to see a review that is easily as critical as Constitution faced.”

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