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US allows Williams more time to get okay for NY-Penn. natgas pipeline

Nov 6 (Reuters) - U.S. energy regulators gave Williams Cos Inc two more years until December 2020 to get the approvals needed to build its long-delayed Constitution natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New York, according to a federal filing made available on Tuesday.

Before it can start building the project, Williams still needs water quality certification. New York state denied the permit in 2016, saying the company failed to provide sufficient information to determine whether the project would comply with state water standards.

Williams sued in federal court, arguing that New York waived its authority to decide on the certification by failing to act within a reasonable period of time. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to review the appeals court judgment that upheld the state's decision.

The company has filed a new federal lawsuit.

This is the second two-year extension for the pipeline, which has been bogged down in regulatory and legal battles since FERC approved construction in December 2014.

The company and the utilities that sell gas to fuel power plants and heat homes favor the line, which is opposed by environmental groups, local landowners and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who argue that the state should rely more on energy efficiency and renewables.

If built, the 125-mile (201-km) pipeline would transport 0.65 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of shale gas.

When Williams proposed Constitution in 2013, it estimated the project would cost about $683 million and enter service in 2016. Delays, however, have boosted that estimate to as high as $875 million, according to upstate New York newspapers.

Williams has said it would take about 10 to 12 months to build the pipeline after it receives the necessary approvals.

Constitution is owned by subsidiaries of Williams, Cabot Oil& Gas, Duke Energy and AltaGas Ltd.

In addition to Williams' court appeal, there is another possible path to get Constitution built.

Some federal officials, including U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, have said the federal government could overturn state decisions that block pipelines for national security reasons.

U.S. President Donald Trump "is unlikely to see much progress on his policy goals from a divided Congress. We expect his administration will re-focus on regulatory issues, like Constitution, to eke out wins ahead of his 2020 re-election campaign," analysts at Height Capital Markets said in a note.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by David Gregorio)


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