Federal Court Rules In Favor Of Pa. Gas Pipeline

Three judges ruled that regulators properly approved the 39-mile MARC 1 pipeline despite complaints of unfair negotiations and poor environmental assessments.

A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected a bid by a coalition of environmental groups to stop the construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern Pennsylvania's Endless Mountains.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal energy regulators properly approved the 39-mile MARC 1 pipeline through Bradford, Sullivan and Lycoming counties.

Some landowners have been fighting the company building the pipeline, contending that Central New York Oil & Gas refused to negotiate in good faith on either monetary compensation or the pipeline's route. The Sierra Club and two local groups challenged a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to authorize construction, saying regulators should have performed a more thorough environmental assessment.

The New York-based appeals court said that FERC's analysis of the pipeline's impact on forests and migratory birds was sufficient, and that regulators "reasonably concluded" that broader impacts caused by natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale gas field should not factor into the analysis of the MARC 1 project.

The company, a subsidiary of Inergy LP of Kansas City, Mo., promotes the MARC 1 pipeline as key infrastructure in developing the Marcellus, a rock formation underneath Pennsylvania and surrounding states that experts believe holds the nation's largest reservoir of gas. The MARC 1 will connect to major interstate pipelines and the company's own natural gas storage facility in southern New York state.

FERC, which considers all applications for new interstate pipelines, received 22,000 comments on the MARC 1, with many expressing concern about environmental and safety impacts. The Environmental Protection Agency also worried about potential damage to the forest ecosystem, noting the pipeline will cross dozens of pristine waterways in an area popular with hikers, hunters and fishermen.

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