Empire Pipeline

From Global Energy Monitor
This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.

Empire Pipeline is an operating natural gas pipeline running from Canada to Pennsylvania, with a shelved expansion project.[1]


The pipeline runs from Cippawa, Ontario, Canada to Tioga, Pennsylvania, USA.

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Project details

  • Operator:
  • Owner: Empire Pipeline
  • Parent company: National Fuel Gas Company[2]
  • Proposed capacity: 300 million cubic feet per day[1]
  • Length: 269 miles[2]
  • Status: Operating[2]
  • Start year: 1993[2]


Empire Pipeline is a FERC-regulated interstate pipeline system that generally transports natural gas from various receipt points in southern New York and at the Pennsylvania border to various local distribution companies, end-users and other interstate pipelines in Western and Central New York and Canada. Empire Pipeline started operations in 1993 as a 157-mile natural gas transmission pipeline that stretched from the Canadian Border at Chippawa to Oswego County, New York. In 2008, the 77-mile Empire Connector Pipeline was placed into service, adding a southern mainline that joined Empire to Millennium Pipeline at Corning, New York. In November 2011, the 15-mile Tioga County Extension was constructed, extending the Empire Connector to producer-gathering systems located in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. In late 2015, the 17-mile Tuscarora Lateral was placed into service, bridging the gap between National Fuel Supply Corporation’s Tuscarora Compressor Station in Steuben County, New York and the Tioga County Extension.[3]

Expansion projects

Empire North Expansion Project

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the expansion pipeline extends into Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario, Canada and entered partial service in June 2020.[4] In November 2020, the EIA reported that the project was completed on June 26, 2020.[5]

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  • Operator: Empire Pipeline[6]
  • Owner: National Fuel Gas Company[1]
  • Capacity: 300 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d)[6]
  • Length: 40.2 kilometers / 25 miles[6]
  • Diameter: 26-inches[6]
  • Cost: 141 million USD[6]
  • Status: Operating[4]
  • Start year: 2020[6]

Northern Access 2016 (NY to ON) Expansion Project

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the expansion pipeline would have extended from New York, USA to Ontario, Canada. It was approved by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).[6]

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as of October 2022, the project was on hold pending litigation.[7]

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  • Owner: Empire Pipeline[6]
  • Parent company: National Fuel Gas Company[1]
  • Capacity: 350 MMcf/d[6]
  • Length: 2.1 mi[6]
  • Diameter: 24 in[6]
  • Status: Shelved[7]
  • Start year: 2024[7]
    • Originally 2016

Northern Access 2016 (PA to NY) Expansion Project

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  • Operator:
  • Owner: Empire Pipeline[6]
  • Parent company: National Fuel Gas Company[8]
  • Capacity: 497 million cubic feet per day[8]
  • Length: 101 miles[8]
  • Status: Proposed
  • Diameter: 24 in[8]
  • Cost: US$455–500 million[8]
  • Start year: 2024[9]
    • Originally 2022-2023[8]

This expansion project, also widely known as the Northern Access Gas Pipeline in the media, would begin in Sergeant Township, McKean County, PA and extend to an existing Porterville Compressor Station in the Town of Elma, Erie County, NY. It interconnects with Tennessee Gas Pipeline in the Town of Wales, Erie County, NY. The pipeline ends at natural gas dehydration facility on Liberty Drive in the Town of Wheatfield, Niagara County, NY.[10] It was proposed in 2013.[11][12]

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the pipeline in early February of 2017. In April of 2017 the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced it would deny water quality permits for the pipeline. It did so after three lengthy public hearings in the affected region. DEC said its decision to deny water permits was based on an opinion that the project didn’t adequately protect wetlands, waterways and wildlife. The decision came after the agency fielded 5,700 comments from concerned citizens over the course of the three hearings. In response, National Fuel confirmed in late April that it’s appealing DEC’s decision. National Fuel has since filed requests with FERC for action to determine whether Northern Access can proceed without DEC’s approval. [13]

In August of 2018 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected requests to review its decision allowing construction of the 99-mile Northern Access Pipeline, overruling a New York decision to deny water quality permits to the project. FERC claimed that New York waived its authority to award permits to the pipeline by not issuing a decision within one year, denying an appeal from the state and environmental groups. Commissioner Richard Glick dissented on the 4-1 decision. The decision comes after FERC in July 2018 declined to overturn a similar New York decision to deny permits for the 124-mile Constitution Pipeline, which was planned to deliver gas from Pennsylvania into the state.[14]

In August of 2019, National Fuel asked federal regulators to issue another order overturning the state Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) opposition to the Northern Access natural gas pipeline. Earlier the same month, the DEC filed a second formal rejection of a water quality permit for the pipeline. National Fuel lawyers argue that by missing the original 2017 deadline to reject the company's 2016 request for a water quality permit, the DEC forfeited all authority over the pipeline.[15]

In December 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected a request from National Fuel Gas Company, and its Empire Pipeline subsidiary, to extend the construction deadline from February 2022 to December 2024, though FERC only did this 'without prejudice', meaning National Fuel could request again closer to the February 2022 deadline.[16]

In June 2020, New York state’s highest court ruled that the Natural Fuel Gas Supply Corp could condemn the private property of a New York couple to make way for the gas pipeline. The New York Court of Appeals 4-2 decision, which comes despite state authorities having denied the required water quality certification for the project, overturned a lower court ruling. The high court determined that an exception under the Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL) excused the natural gas company from holding a public hearing about the project’s public benefits and its environmental effects.[17]

In March 2021, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation was found by FERC to have waived its authority to issue a Section 401 WQC (water quality certification). This represented a major legal obstacle and came about because the New York department failed to act within a one-year time frame required by the US Clean Water Act.[18]

In June 2022, US regulators gave National Gas Fuel Company a 35-month extension to complete the pipeline by 2024,[19] as it experiencing ongoing legal battles.

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Empire North Expansion, RBN Energy, archived from the original on Aug. 27, 2021, archive accessed Aug. 27, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named source2
  3. Empire Pipeline, National Fuel, accessed Aug. 27, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 In the first half of 2020, about 5 Bcf/d of natural gas pipeline capacity entered service U.S. Energy Information Agency, Aug. 24, 2020
  5. Natural Gas Data, Pipeline Projects Energy Information Agency, November 16, 2020
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 Natural Gas Data, Pipeline Projects Energy Information Agency, July 21, 2020
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 U.S. natural gas pipeline projects, U.S. Energy Information Administration.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 Natural Gas Data, Pipeline Projects Energy Information Agency, accessed July 21, 2020
  9. U.S. natural gas pipeline projects, U.S. Energy Information Administration, April 29, 2021
  10. Northern Access Gas Pipeline, National Fuel, accessed January 2018
  11. "https://www.nationalfuel.com/pipeline-storage/national-fuel-gas-supply-corp/northern-access-project-overview/". Retrieved 2022-07-22. {{cite web}}: External link in |title= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. Thomas J. Prohaska News Niagara Reporter. "National Fuel seeks another extension of pipeline construction deadline". Buffalo News. Retrieved 2022-10-11.
  13. "No. 9 in '17: Northern Access project at a standstill" The Lockport Journal accessed January 2018
  14. "FERC denies rehearing on Northern Access pipeline, overruling New York decision" Utility Dive, accessed May 2019
  15. Thomas J. Prohaska, National Fuel asks feds to again squelch DEC rejection of Northern Access pipeline The Buffalo News, August 28, 2019
  16. Thomas J. Prohaska, Federal agency refuses to extend construction deadline for National Fuel pipeline, Dec. 2, 2020, accessed Sep. 1, 2021.
  17. Sebastien Malo, N.Y. high court rules National Fuel can condemn land for Northern Access pipeline, Reuters, June 25, 2020
  18. James Cocklin, Northern Access Natural Gas Pipeline Project Inches Forward After Big Court Win, Natural Gas Integlligence, Mar. 26, 2021, accessed Sep. 1, 2021.
  19. "U.S. gives NFG more time to build Northern Access natgas pipeline". Reuters. Retrieved 2022-07-22.

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