Andrew Cuomo Issues Boldfaced Challenge to FERC

Constitution Pipeline - MarkindDaniel B. Markind, Esq.
Weir and Partners, LLP


Andrew Cuomo has directly challenged FERC and is likely to lose on the legal front but, politically, he is aiming to have his cake and eat it, too. He may.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo doubled down on his anti-pipeline stance when his Department of Environmental Conservation refused to grant Section 401 Clean Streams Permits for the Northern Access Pipeline, which would have carried natural gas into Western New York.  This is the same stance that the New York DEC took regarding the Constitution Pipeline, which I have written about numerous times.

In doing so, Governor Cuomo issues a direct challenge to FERC.  No longer will the Federal Agency tasked with passing on the necessity and routing of pipelines have the final say.  Now, the Governor of each State, through the backdoor of the Section 401 process, can assert control over this element of interstate commerce.


At first glance, Governor Cuomo’s Northern Access move appears to undercut his basic stance.  Taking this anti-pipeline position a second time is a boldface challenge to the federal agency and the concept of federal supremacy.  Unless there is a truly compelling environmental reason for the refusal to grant the permits, it seems unlikely that in the end the New York Governor can prevail.

Politically, however, Governor Cuomo may have found a way to have his cake and eat it too.  By forcing this action he solidifies his environmental base heading into the 2018 Gubernatorial election.  Should the Federal courts overturn the refusal of his DEC to grant the Section 401 Permit, he gains the pipeline infrastructure he needs also.  Not a bad political move.

In better news for the pipeline industry, FERC issued its final Environmental Impact Statement for the 120-mile PennEast Project.  FERC concluded that the building of the pipeline would have some environmental impacts, but they would be reduced to “less-than-significant levels” by following mitigation steps.  This project, which transports gas from Northeastern Pennsylvania to Central New Jersey, already is over 90% subscribed.

Already this year, Reuters reports that private equity funds raised $19.8B for energy ventures, nearly three times as much as last year at this date.  Clearly, shale is making a huge comeback.  As Reuters points out, this renaissance is happening even as oil and gas prices stall.  What is extraordinary is that producers have slashed costs in half in the last two years.

Of course, the shale price is related to world events, and events that impact and are impacted by energy matters happen so quickly it’s almost impossible to keep up.  The major headline last week, of course, was the Trump Administration bombing the Syrian Shayrat Airbase after Syrian planes from that base launched a chemical weapons attack in the Town of Khan Sheikhoun.  American warships fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the airbase, causing substantial damage.  This military action did not end, or perhaps even make a large dent, in Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons capability.  It did, however, let Assad, the Russians and the Iranians know that unlike the past Administration, this one will not sit by idly by when historical international “red lines” are crossed.


The rub, of course, is what happens now.  Russian President Vladimir Putin reacted angrily to the American strike, and Russia vetoed the UN Resolution condemning Assad’s chemical weapons attack.  Russian warships now patrol in the Mediterranean, and the Russians have pledged to increase the sophistication of Syrian’s air defenses.  Syria is within a few hundred miles of Russia, so Russia has much better proximity to project its military force there than America.  Therefore, American leverage will have to take a broader scope than just military power.

This is where energy comes in – front and center.  If Russia continues to be belligerent in Syria, the West will need a combination of military and economic power to counteract it.  Until the pipeline and export infrastructure is in place, Europe will continue to be subject to Russian energy blackmail.  This decreases substantially the cost the West can extract for this Russian adventurism.  Again, energy policy impacts world events.

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15 thoughts on “Andrew Cuomo Issues Boldfaced Challenge to FERC

  1. New York state has the most natural shale of any state in the US. It can be done safely and precautions are put in place. Natural gas would be the rebirth of New York. It has been the rebirth of PA – jobs, tax reductions, cost of living is less. Maybe people from NY would not be leaving at record number because they could afford to live here.

    Wake up Cuomo !!!!!!

  2. Gov. Cuomo is doing an exemplary job in protecting his citizens and environment by denying the water permits for these last two gas pipelines.
    Wish our Pa. Governor took a similar stance.
    we need to divert much more investments to the green sector and remove them from the non-profit producing fossil fuel sectors…
    Europe is doing more to fund and develop Green Energies and are not going to rely solely on US fossil fuels that are polluting and risky.
    Almost every week we hear of another spill or explosion.
    Time to move on to new energies and not hold onto what we have had for the past 100 years or so.
    My county has over 1000 DEP Violations from the gas industry presence.
    Would you want that? Would you want over 500 gas pad/sites in your county fragmenting the landscape and eco-systems? and they’re only about 25% into their plan of development…!
    This energy is very invasive and pervasive and polluting with their almost 50 gas compressor stations to process the gas in my county alone…!
    Europe can take care of itself and knows what to do and how to interact with Russia and doesn’t need to be “saved” by the US.

    • Vera,
      would you kindly list those so called “green technolgies”? Please don’t say solar because that would mean more strip mining for rare minerals in places like China which have poor environmental regulations and human rights violations. Wind turbines are known to decimate raptor and bat populations. Many are of these species are protected and bats are natural pest controllers and pollinators. Having those populations diminish would require more man made pesticides and as with raptors, there would be an overpopulation of rodents which would impact agricultural supplies and promote the carrying of parasites and diseases. You also have the other unintended negative impacts of utilizing large amounts of fossil fuels to manufacture, transport, and maintain your so called green energy facilities. Think of the deforestation, the increase in impermeable surfaces, the increase in erosion and its impact to water quality.
      As an aside, have you championed for the improvement of existing wastewater treatment infrastructure? Think about how much potential energy is wasted by humans by processing our sanitary wastes? We will wait for your well thought out retort.

    • Another “green energy” company is going down the drain Vera. Cuomo needs to pay attention to this as he throws billions of dollars of tax payers money into them.

      Pending Bankruptcy of Largest Solar Company Puts Alternative Energy Industry Into Full Meltdown Mode

      “The irony of this whole debacle is that those who swear that they are ‘saving’ the world are actually destroying it. Now would be a good time to slap some sense into these Utopian dreamers.”

    • Ms. Scroggins seems so adept at attempting to delay gas development with her calculated trespassing and waving about empty boxes supposedly filled with petitions will disrupting public meetings. But her performances do not cover up the lack of renewable development or the industrial scale needed to reach its goals.

      The Jacobson Plan calls for 3.47% of PA’s total area (c. 1630 sq. mi.) to be used for 9,293 onshore wind turbines, 912 offshore turbines and 686 sq. mi. of solar panels in order to reach 100% renewable by 2050. Bill McKibben wants to do all that by 2050 and both predicate their plans on a 37% reduction in total energy use. Since we are supposed to heat our homes and water with electricity and be charging up our electric cars in this fossil fuel free future, such a reduction is not likely. If energy use remained constant, but had to be generated by renewables, you would have to increase all the figures above by an additional 50%. Does Ms. Scroggins think that level of industrial development won’t result in “renewable sacrifice zones” and “fragmenting the landscape”? Does she have a “Plan B”?

      Jacobson say says that 100% renewables will cost $551.9 Billion just for PA. Does Ms. Scroggins know where this sum will come from or how it will be raised? She seems impressed with Europe’s progress, but future German off shore wind development will be without any government subsidies. What would a lack of subsidies do to the renewable timetable in the U.S.?

      After all kinds of glowing expectations for the future, the article has this paragraph near the end:

      “Dong’s German bid may turn into a costly mistake “if their cost reduction or power price assumptions don’t materialize,” Deepa Venkateswaran, an analyst at Sandford C. Bernstein & Company in London, said by email. Because the project is several years away, the company can walk away from the deal if trends do not go its way.”

      What could possibly go wrong?

    • Hey Vera I take it you ride a horse and live in a teepee. You and your people are so far from reality it’s amazing.

  3. Guess what this ugly clown heats all of New York City with, including his mansions too. Can you imagine if this simpleton ever got in the White House? Thank God he never will.

  4. Can I please request that we stop with the personal attacks and name calling, at least when it comes to my articles? I think I make my positions quite clear and I disagree with much of what is said in certain comments, but I respect everyone’s right to say them. Fracking has become a very emotional issue and we need to hear from everyone, both pro and con. Calling other people names not only doesn’t help your own argument, it diminishes the effectiveness of what you have to say. Let’s try to keep this as civil as possible. Please.

      • I appreciate pleas for civility and I believe in the free market of ideas. But I also believe that liars should be called out for what they are -not given equal time. When a politically motivated opinion rests on false premises and a string of deliberate and proven falsehoods I see no reason for restraint.

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