FERC: Rhode Island tribe missed its chance to intervene in Massachusetts pipeline fight 1/16/2017

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FERC: Rhode Island tribe missed its chance to intervene in Massachusetts pipeline fight

This utility right-of-way through the Otis State Forest was widened to accommodate a Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline. The Connecticut Expansion Project went into service in late 2017. (Mary Serreze photo)

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday said it won’t reconsider its construction permit for a Massachusetts pipeline, and also rejected a Rhode Island Indian tribe’s late bid for full legal standing in the matter of the Connecticut Expansion Project.

Now the Narragansett Indian Tribe plans to sue the five-member commission in federal appeals court, a lawyer representing the tribe’s historic preservation office confirmed.

A Narragansett tribal official in late 2016 helped identify dozens of “ceremonial stone landscapes” along the pipeline right-of-way through the Otis State Forest in Berkshire County, and refused to sign a mitigation agreement. The tribe asserts that FERC violated federal historic preservation law in its permitting process.

The 14-mile Kinder Morgan pipeline, with loops in three states, went into service in late 2017 and serves three natural gas utilities in Connecticut.

“Naturally, FERC is trying to stop (the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office) from bringing this case — by denying NITHPO party status — because it doesn’t want an appellate court to be scrutinizing its actions,” said New York lawyer Anne Marie Garti on Monday.

Parties with intervenor status have robust rights, including automatic standing to challenge any final agency decision in federal appeals court.