In re Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC

CourtFederal Energy Regulatory Commission
Citation178 FERC ¶ 61, 029
Decision Date20 January 2022
Docket NumberCP16-9-012,CP16-9-011
PartiesAlgonquin Gas Transmission, LLC Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, L.L.C.

178 FERC ¶ 61, 029

Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, L.L.C.

Nos. CP16-9-011, CP16-9-012

United States of America, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

January 20, 2022

Before Commissioners: Richard Glick, Chairman; James P. Danly, Allison Clements, Mark C. Christie, and Willie L. Phillips.


Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary

1. On September 24, 2020, Commission staff issued an order authorizing Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC (Algonquin) and Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, L.L.C. (Maritimes) (together, Applicants) to place the Weymouth Compressor Station and other facilities associated with the Atlantic Bridge Project into service (Authorization Order).[1]The Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, the City of Quincy, Massachusetts, Weymouth Councilor Rebecca Haugh, Michael Hayden, and Food and Water Watch (collectively, Petitioners) filed a timely joint request for rehearing of the Authorization Order, raising concerns regarding the operation of the project.[2] On February 18, 2021, the Commission issued an order stating that the concerns expressed in the rehearing request, as well as in other comments submitted to the Commission, warranted further consideration and setting the matter for paper briefing (Briefing Order).[3] Here, we address the arguments raised on rehearing and in the briefs and, for the reasons discussed below, sustain the Authorization Order.


2. Pursuant to Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC, [4] the rehearing request filed in this proceeding may be deemed denied by operation of law. However, as permitted by section 19(a) of the Natural Gas Act (NGA), [5] we are modifying the discussion in the Authorization Order and continue to reach the same result in this proceeding, as discussed below.[6]

I. Background

3. On January 25, 2017, the Commission issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity under section 7 of the Natural Gas Act (NGA), [7] authorizing Applicants to construct and operate certain pipeline and compression facilities in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts (Atlantic Bridge Project), subject to certain conditions (Certificate Order).[8] Specifically, the project entailed replacing existing pipeline, modifying certain facilities, building the new Weymouth Compressor Station in Norfolk, Massachusetts, and modifying the Maritimes' Westbrook Metering and Regulator Station in Cumberland, Maine. According to Applicants, the project was designed to alleviate acute capacity constraints in the New England region and the Canadian Maritime provinces.

4. The certificate required the facilities to be constructed and operated in compliance with both the Certificate Order (including the appended conditions), and the Environmental Assessment. To commence operations, Environmental Condition 10 of the Certificate Order requires Applicants to receive written authorization from the Director of the Office of Energy Projects before commencing service on each discrete


facility of the project. That authorization will only be granted upon a determination that rehabilitation and restoration of the right-of-way and other areas affected by project construction are proceeding satisfactorily.[9]

5. In a series of orders issued between March 27, 2017, and November 27, 2019, Commission staff authorized Applicants to proceed with construction of and to place into service Atlantic Bridge Project facilities in Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts.[10]On September 16, 2020, Applicants submitted a request to place the Weymouth Compressor Station and Westbrook Metering and Regulator Station into service by October 1, 2020.[11] On September 24, 2020, Commission staff granted Applicants' in-


service request, finding that Applicants "have adequately stabilized areas disturbed by construction and that restoration is proceeding satisfactorily."[12] The Authorization Order reminded the Applicants to comply with all applicable remaining terms and conditions of the Certificate Order. No party contends on rehearing that the Authorization Order erred in concluding that Environmental Condition 10 has been satisfied.

6. On September 11 and 30, 2020, the Weymouth Compressor Station experienced two emergency shutdowns following unplanned releases of natural gas, known as blowdown events or blowdowns.[13] Responsibility for addressing the blowdowns as part of the Weymouth Compressor Station's ongoing operations, rests with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which directly regulates pipeline safety under the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968.[14] According to PHMSA, during the September 11, 2020 incident, a gasket, that was intended for shipping but not


operations, failed during the station's commissioning activities. [15] The failure triggered the manual operation of the emergency shutdown system and the release of approximately 169, 000 cubic feet (cf) of natural gas.[16] On September 30, 2020, the station again experienced an unplanned release of natural gas and emergency shutdown, resulting in the release of 195, 000 cf of natural gas for a then-unknown reason, but likely related to a power interruption.[17] On October 1, 2020, PHMSA issued a corrective action order, which initiated an investigation into the incidents, explained that the station was not operating at that time, barred Algonquin from operating the station until authorized by PHMSA, and required a restart plan.[18] On November 25, 2020, PHMSA approved


both the restart plan and the independent root cause failure analyses for both incidents submitted by Algonquin, and temporarily removed a pressure restriction required by the corrective action order.[19] PHMSA explained that the corrective action order would remain in effect until both the recommended actions identified in the root cause failure analyses and the remaining corrective actions had been completed. On November 17, 2021, PHMSA issued a letter stating that Algonquin completed the requirements in the corrective action order and that it was closing the investigation.[20]

7. Following the unplanned natural gas releases and emergency shutdowns, the Commission received Petitioners' timely request for rehearing[21] of the Authorization Order and numerous other pleadings, including letters filed by Senators Warren and Markey and Representative Lynch, expressing environmental and safety concerns regard ing the operation of the Weymouth Compressor Station.[22]

8. Given the circumstances associated with the two blowdowns, on February 18, 2021, the Commission issued the Briefing Order. The Commission requested briefing on whether: (1) it would be consistent with the Commission's responsibilities under the NGA to allow the Weymouth Compressor Station to enter and remain in service; (2) the Commission should reconsider the current operation of the compressor station in light of


changed circumstances, such as air emission impacts or public safety and potential impacts to surrounding communities, including environmental justice communities;[23] (3) there would be any ad d itional mitigation measures the Commission could impose; and (4)there would be any consequences if the Commission were to stay or reverse the Authorization Order.[24] The Commission stated that the facilities placed in service pursuant to the Authorization Order may remain in service while the Commission considered the issues.

9. Local individuals, community and non-governmental organizations, Massachusetts state officials and Weymouth area local government and public entities[25] urge the Commission to stay or reverse the Certificate and Authorization Orders. Specifically, numerous parties ask the Commission to suspend operations at the Weymouth Compressor Station, [26] while others ask the Commission to require design changes or other mitigation. For example, the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station and local residents argue that Applicants should be required to use electric-driven compressors or solar panel-powered facilities as opposed to the gas-fired turbines approved in the Certificate Order.[27] Generally, parties allege that the compressor station is a public safety hazard and a threat to Massachusetts's transportation and economic network because it is located in a densely populated area in close proximity to


environmental justice communities.[28] Further, numerous parties raise concerns related to the health of environmental justice communities, especially during a global pandemic that has disproportionately adversely impacted such communities.[29] Local residents and others also assert that operation of the station presents public safety hazards, including the location of the station on a hazardous waste site, flooding, sea level rise, inadequacy of the current emergency plan, and lack of evacuation routes, due to the location of the station in a densely populated area with limited routes for ingress and egress.[30] Parties also question Applicants' safety capabilities in light of the emergency shutdowns.[31]Finally, parties opposing the project also claim deficiencies in the Commission's EA and Certificate Order related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.[32]

10. Parties also urge the Commission to modify the certificate pursuant to Environmental Condition 2 of the Certificate Order. The Conservation Law Foundation, Acadia Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and the Sustainable FERC Project also argue that the two emergency shutdowns at the compressor station caused such severe negative public safety impacts that Environmental Condition 2[33] was violated and the basic premises on which the Certificate Order was issued were negated.[34]


11. In their response briefs, industry trade organizations and regulated natural gas entities claim that the Briefing Order...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT