Judge rules shale gas pipeline can cross holdout properties

| 24 Mar 2015 | 12:44

— The companies backing a 124-mile pipeline designed to ferry cheap Marcellus Shale natural gas to New York and New England can build across seven northeastern Pennsylvania properties whose owners had not agreed to it, a judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Malachy Mannion ruled on March 19 that the Constitution Pipeline has the necessary permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and that it serves the public interest by providing additional natural gas pipeline capacity.

Mannion also wrote that the Susquehanna County landowners stand to gain adequate compensation from the pipeline's owners. Some of the defendants did not respond to the lawsuits seeking access to their land.

The lead partners in the Constitution Pipeline are Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Williams Partners LP and Houston-based Cabot Oil and Gas Corp.

Construction on the seven properties can begin after the partner companies posts a $1.6 million bond to ensure there is money to pay the landowners once a judge approves the final compensation.

A Williams spokesman, Chris Stockton, said Thursday the group hopes to begin construction June 1 and still needs permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New York's Department of Environmental Conservation.

Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection approved erosion control and stream crossing permits for the pipeline last week.

The companies sought access to 130 properties in Pennsylvania and filed condemnation proceedings on 20. Agreements were reached with the other 13 before a judge ruled, Stockton said.

The Marcellus Shale is the largest-known underground natural gas reservoir in the United States. Exploration of the reservoir began in earnest in 2008 and has transformed Pennsylvania from a drilling backwater into the nation's second-largest natural gas producer behind Texas.

The 30-inch pipeline would run from Pennsylvania's Susquehanna County through New York's Broome, Chenango, and Delaware counties to connect with the existing Tennessee and Iroquois pipelines in the Schoharie County town of Wright, 80 miles southwest of Albany, New York.