Feds grant more time in Columbia Gas rehearing request

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order last Monday, September 17 that will extend the time the agency has to reconsider a permit for Columbia Gas to build a 3.4-mile natural gas pipeline near Hancock and under the Potomac River.

Federal energy regulators granted a certificate of convenience and necessity to Columbia Gas on July 19 to move ahead with the gas line project.

On August 17, two environmental groups filed a request with FERC to hold a rehearing on the permit and pull back approval for the project. Potomac Riverkeeper Network and Chesapeake Climate Action Network claimed that FERC commissioners failed to do two things – assess the total future greenhouse gas impact and review the total environmental impact of the Columbia Gas line and the West Virginia gas line it would supply.

Columbia Gas has said it wants to build the 3-mile gas line from an existing transmission line in Fulton County, Pa. to a spot in Morgan County, W.Va. Columbia Gas would then supply gas to a new 23-mile natural gas line being built by Mountaineer Gas from an area north of Berkeley Springs to Martinsburg, W.Va.

Environmental groups argued that FERC should have included the Mountaineer Gas line in their calculation of environmental damage or impact for the Columbia Gas project.

FERC conducted an environmental assessment on the Pa. to W.Va. project and found it posed no significant threat to the environment.

Environmental groups have been particularly concerned about a segment of the line that would be built under the Potomac River using horizontal directional drilling.

According to the September 17 order from FERC, the agency wanted to keep an open timeframe for considering the groups’ request for rehearing. The order says if the commission had taken no further action, the rehearing would have automatically been denied on September 17 – 30 days from the rehearing request.

“In order to afford additional time for consideration of the matters raised or to be raised, rehearing of the Commission’s order is hereby granted for the limited purpose of further consideration, and timely-filed rehearing requests will not be deemed denied by operation of law. Rehearing requests of the above-cited order filed in this proceeding will be addressed in a future order,” the one-page document says.