This controversial natural-gas pipeline won't go forward in New York
ALBANY — After a four-year battle with the state, the owner of a proposed natural-gas pipeline through the Southern Tier said Friday it will not move forward with the struggling project.
The controversial 124-mile long Constitution pipeline would have brought natural gas from Pennsylvania into the Southern Tier before stopping just outside Albany.
But Williams Partners LP, the gas company heading the project, said it is ending its pursuit after court battles with New York regulators have delayed the construction since 2016.
"Williams — with support from its partners, Duke, Cabot and AltaGas — has halted investment in the proposed Constitution project," the Tulsa-based company said in a statement.
"While Constitution did receive positive outcomes in recent court proceedings and permit applications, the underlying risk adjusted return for this greenfield pipeline project has diminished in such a way that further development is no longer supported."
The project took a step forward last August when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found the state Department of Environmental Conservation erred in rejecting a critical water-quality permit for the pipeline.
But the DEC and Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to continue to fight the project, part of a long-standing effort by the Democratic governor to cut New York's fossil-fuel emissions.
New York has a ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and a goal of of net-zero emissions by 2050.
"Any way that we can challenge it, we will," Cuomo said after the FERC decision.
Williams said it believes natural gas remains "a critical part of our country's clean energy future" and would continue its work elsewhere.
"Our existing pipeline network and expansions offer much better risk adjusted return than greenfield opportunities, which can be impacted by an ambiguous and vulnerable regulatory framework," the company's statement continued.
Environmental groups fought the project and applauded the company's decision.
“Defeating the Constitution Pipeline is an enormous victory for advocates who have been fighting for eight years to protect New York State and its waterways," Moneen Nasmith, a staff attorney for Earthjustice, said in a statement.
"At this critical moment for our climate, we cannot afford unnecessary fossil fuel projects that will lead to more fracking and exacerbate our climate crisis."
The state's fight against new gas pipelines has strained its energy resources, leading to a natural gas shortage, some utility companies have said.
The lack of supply led Con Edison and National Grid last year put moratoriums in place on new gas hookups in parts of Long Island, New York City and Westchester County.
Under pressure from Cuomo and state regulators, National Grid reached a deal with the state to end its moratorium on Long Island last November.
But the Con Ed moratorium has persisted in southern Westchester for nearly a year.
"We are going to be going through the same process," Cuomo said in November about ending the Con Ed fight. "We are fine with legitimate discussion, but we are not going to be bullied."
Joseph Spector is the New York state editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany