ROTH, Circuit Judge:
In this appeal, we are called upon to review water quality-related permitting actions by New Jersey and Pennsylvania for a project by Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC (Transco), which operates the Transcontinental pipeline, a 10,000-mile pipeline that extends from South Texas to New York City. Transco sought federal approval to expand a portion of the pipeline, called the Leidy Line, which connects gas wells in Central Pennsylvania with the main pipeline. Pursuant to the Clean Water Act, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Environmental Protection (PADEP and NJDEP, respectively) reviewed Transco's proposal for potential water quality impacts and issued permits for construction. The New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, and Friends of Princeton Open Space (collectively, the Foundation) petitioned this Court for review of NJDEP's decision to issue these permits. In a separate petition to this Court, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Maya van Rossum (collectively, the Riverkeeper) challenged PADEP's issuance of a Water Quality Certification required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The petitions were consolidated for review.
For the reasons that follow, we conclude this Court has jurisdiction to hear these petitions, and NJDEP and PADEP did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in issuing the permits. Therefore, we will deny the petitions.
I. Statutory Background
Under the Natural Gas Act of 1938,
Other federal authorizations may be required because interstate sales and transmission of natural gas are further regulated through federal environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
Although the Natural Gas Act preempts state environmental regulation of interstate natural gas facilities, the Natural Gas Act allows states to participate in environmental regulation of these facilities under three federal statutes: the Clean Air Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, and the Clean Water Act.
This combination of state and federal mechanisms is apparent when a proposed activity involves discharge of dredged or fill material into the navigable waters of the United States and thus triggers the permitting requirements of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
II. Administrative Background
In September 2013, Transco submitted an application to FERC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Leidy Southeast Expansion Project. The Project consists of two major types of improvements to existing natural gas pipelines: the construction of four new pipeline "loops" and the upgrade of turbines at four compressor stations. "Loops" are sections of pipe connected to the main pipeline system that reduce the loss of gas pressure and increase the flow efficiency of the system. Compressor stations serve a similar function, using gas- and electric-powered turbines to increase the pressure and rate of flow at given points along the pipeline's route. In its application, Transco proposed installing, within or parallel to existing Transco pipelines, approximately thirty miles of loops. The Skillman Loop and the Pleasant Run Loop, totaling 13.23 miles, would be located in New Jersey; the Franklin Loop and Dorrance Loop, totaling 16.74 miles, would be located in Pennsylvania.
FERC completed the requisite Environmental Assessment in August 2014, and issued the certificate of public convenience and necessity on December 18, 2014. The certificate was conditioned on, inter alia, Transco's receipt of "all applicable authorizations under federal law"
A. New Jersey
FERC required Transco to obtain the following authorizations for each loop from NJDEP: a Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit, a Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit, a Water Quality Certification, and a Letter of Interpretation. Transco first obtained Letters of Interpretation, in which NJDEP sets forth the boundaries of freshwater wetlands and state-regulated transition areas.
In April, NJDEP issued, for each loop, a Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit, a Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit, and a Water Quality Certification. In addition,
Later in May, while the Foundation's petition was pending, Transco submitted a request to NJDEP for a minor modification to the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit for the Skillman Loop, to change the excavation method for a wetland in Princeton, New Jersey. NJDEP approved the request on June 4, 2015, which the Foundation challenged in its opening brief. Later in June, the Foundation filed an emergency motion for a stay of construction. A week later, we denied the motion. At this time, the New Jersey portion of the project is substantially complete.
FERC required Transco to obtain from PADEP a Water Quality Certification and a Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permit. The latter, issued under Chapter 105 of PADEP's regulations, are referred to as "Chapter 105 Permits." FERC further required Transco to obtain a Section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Each certificate or permit covered both loops in Pennsylvania.
Transco applied to PADEP for the Water Quality Certification in June 2014. In the following month, PADEP published notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin that it intended to issue a Water Quality Certification so long as Transco obtained certain other state permits, including a Chapter 105 Permit. In April 2015, PADEP issued a Water Quality Certification for the project. Shortly thereafter, the Riverkeeper filed a petition in this Court specifically challenging the Water Quality Certification. Three months later, PADEP issued a Chapter 105 permit. After receiving all of its required permits, Transco sought permission from FERC to proceed with construction. FERC granted this request in July 2015, during the pendency of the instant matter.
III. Threshold Challenges
At the outset, we consider challenges by NJDEP and PADEP regarding this Court's jurisdiction, the justiciability of the petitions, and whether sovereign immunity shields state agency actions. Specifically, NJDEP and PADEP allege that we lack subject matter jurisdiction to review the petitions and that, even if we had jurisdiction, the petitions are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. NJDEP further argues that because construction in New Jersey is substantially complete, the petition is moot.
A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
The Riverkeeper and the Foundation, in petitioning this Court for review, invoke a provision of the Natural Gas Act that confers original jurisdiction on Courts of Appeals over certain state and federal permitting actions for interstate natural gas pipelines. Both PADEP and NJDEP contest whether that provision applies. Our jurisdiction ultimately depends on whether PADEP and NJDEP acted "pursuant to Federal law" in issuing permits to Transco.
We begin with the statute. In 2005, Congress amended the Natural Gas Act to subject certain state and federal permitting decisions for interstate natural gas pipeline projects to review by the federal
NJDEP and PADEP contend that their decisions to issue Water Quality Certifications are not covered by the provision that grants jurisdiction to this Court and, consequently, we lack jurisdiction to hear these petitions. NJDEP further contests our jurisdiction to review those authorizations that "exclusively involv[e] issues of State law," including the Flood Hazard Area Individual Permits, the Letters of Interpretation, and those portions of the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permits that address state-regulated issues such as transition areas or state threatened and endangered species. For the following reasons, we hold that we have jurisdiction over these petitions.
B. Jurisdiction over Water Quality Certifications
1. Permits Issued by PADEP
PADEP argues that this Court does not have jurisdiction over Water Quality Certifications because our jurisdiction under the Natural Gas Act extends only to state agency action taken pursuant to federal law, whereas a Water Quality Certification is required by federal law. This argument does not pass muster. Although the Clean Water Act makes clear that states have the right to promulgate water quality standards as they see fit, subject to EPA oversight, the issuance of a Water Quality Certification is not purely a matter of state law.
The conclusion that a Water Quality Certification is issued pursuant to federal
2. Permits Issued by NJDEP
NJDEP argues we have no jurisdiction over the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permits or the Water Quality Certifications, and even if we had jurisdiction over those two authorizations, we cannot reach issues regarding aspects of the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permits that concern transition areas and threatened and endangered species, the Letters of Interpretation, or the Flood Hazard Area Individual Permits. We consider each authorization in turn, and conclude that each is rooted in NJDEP's exercise of authority that it assumed pursuant to Sections 401 and 404 of the Clean Water Act.
First, with respect to NJDEP's argument that we lack jurisdiction over the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permits and the Water Quality Certifications, New Jersey's Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act provides for the state's administration of Section 404 permits, and its implementing regulations make clear a permit issued under the Act, called the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit, "constitutes" the
Next, NJDEP argues that those portions of the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit that address state threatened and endangered species are governed by state law rather than the Clean Water Act, and thus are not subject to our review. A Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit may be issued only if the regulated activity "[w]ill not destroy, jeopardize[,] or adversely modify a present or documented habitat for threatened or endangered species...."
Under similar reasoning, we have jurisdiction over the Flood Hazard Area Individual Permits. The Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act requires compliance with the Flood Hazard Act.
Likewise, the Letters of Interpretation are part and parcel of the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permits, and thus subject to this Court's review. New Jersey regulations require an applicant for a Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit to submit the Letter of Interpretation as part of the application package if a Letter has been issued, or "[i]f the applicant applies for [a Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit] without first obtaining [a Letter of Interpretation], the permit application must include all information that would be necessary for the Department to issue [a Letter of Interpretation] for the site.... The Department will then review the submitted wetland delineation as part of the permit review process."
We next consider NJDEP and Transco's argument that the petition for review is moot because construction is complete and Transco has been conducting mitigation and restoration. Thus, any procedural remedy would be ineffectual. The Foundation argues the petition is not moot because we can provide relief in the form of additional analysis of environmental impact and measures to address those effects.
Mootness raises both constitutional and prudential concerns.
This case is not moot because NJDEP may monitor mitigation outcomes following completion of mitigation. Specifically, pursuant to New Jersey regulation and as set forth in the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permits and the Flood Hazard Area Individual Permits, Transco must submit annual reports to NJDEP for three years after completing mitigation, and NJDEP may monitor the progress of remedial actions. If mitigation has not met the requirements in the regulations, NJDEP may direct Transco to perform additional mitigation or other remedial action.
C. Sovereign Immunity
NJDEP and PADEP contend that any challenge brought under Section 19(d) is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. With respect to the Water Quality Certifications and Section 404 permits, NJDEP and PADEP argue that their mere participation in the Clean Water Act permitting process does not waive their sovereign immunity provided by the Eleventh Amendment. NJDEP further argues that when it assumed authority to administer Section 404, it explicitly reserved its sovereign immunity for Section 404 actions through a Memorandum of Agreement with the EPA. Therefore, according to NJDEP, sovereign immunity bars this Court from reviewing the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permits, Flood Hazard Area Individual Permits, and Letters of Interpretation. These arguments are unavailing. As discussed below, we hold that New Jersey and Pennsylvania's voluntary participation in the regulatory schemes of the Natural Gas Act and the Clean Water Act constitutes a waiver of sovereign immunity, given the clear language in those statutes subjecting their actions to federal review.
The Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution states that federal courts may not hear "any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State...."
A state may waive its immunity by engaging in conduct that demonstrates the state's consent to suit in federal court.
2. Sovereign Immunity and Section 19(d)
Here, the application of the gratuity waiver doctrine is consistent with precedent of our sister courts and supported by the language of Section 19(d) of the Natural Gas Act. In Islander East Pipeline Company v. Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection,
We agree with the Islander court that the principle of gratuity waiver applies to the regulatory scheme established by the Natural Gas Act. Section 19(d) grants the Courts of Appeals jurisdiction to review "state agency action." This language is unambiguous. New Jersey and Pennsylvania's participation in the regulatory scheme of the Clean Water Act with respect to interstate natural gas facilities, pursuant to the Natural Gas Act and after the amendment of Section 19(d), constitutes a waiver of their immunity from suits brought under the Natural Gas Act. In effect, Section 19(d) creates a small carve out from sovereign immunity. Under this limited carve out, federal judicial review is proper over those state actions regarding interstate natural gas facilities pursuant to the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
For these reasons, we have jurisdiction over the petitions. We therefore turn to the merits of these petitions.
IV. Merits Challenges
A. Standard of Review
The standard of review of state action pursuant to the Clean Water Act for an interstate natural gas facility is a matter of first impression for this Court. Consistent with our precedent in MCI, which dealt with a similar regulatory arrangement, we review de novo state agency interpretation of federal law, and review under the arbitrary and capricious standard state action taken pursuant to federal law.
B. New Jersey
The Foundation alleges four general problems with NJDEP's issuance of the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permits, the Flood Hazard Area Individual Permits, the Water Quality Certifications, and the Letters of Interpretation: (1) NJDEP deprived the Foundation of sufficient opportunity
1. Opportunity for Public Comment
State regulations require NJDEP, after determining an application to be administratively complete, to publish a notice of the application in the DEP Bulletin, make the application available at its offices in Trenton, and, in some circumstances, hold a public hearing.
Although the Foundation argues that it was deprived of an opportunity to comment on the revisions because Transco submitted the revised analysis after the close of the public comment period, the Foundation reviewed the revised analysis and submitted additional written comments from its members and two drilling experts and had a face-to-face meeting with NJDEP to express its continued concern with the proposal. The record shows that NJDEP asked Transco to respond to the concerns raised. A party challenging the sufficiency of the public comment process bears the burden of showing it was prejudiced by the lack of opportunity to comment.
Similarly, petitioners were not harmed by the omission of three counties from the initial notice because Princeton Ridge Coalition and Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association — both located in the initially omitted counties — were aware of the
2. Agency Analysis on Environmental Impact of Proposal
New Jersey regulations require NJDEP to analyze the environmental impact of the proposed activity, such as the activity's potential effect on water quality, the aquatic ecosystem, and threatened and endangered animals. The Foundation alleges NJDEP acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner because NJDEP (1) failed to adequately analyze alternatives to the proposed activity that would be less environmentally-adverse or result in the minimum feasible impairment of the aquatic ecosystem, (2) defined the project purpose in such a narrow manner as to exclude potential alternatives to the proposed activity, (3) improperly concluded that the proposed activity in connection with the Skillman Loop will not harm threatened or endangered species or their habitats, and (4) improperly determined that the proposal is in the public interest.
a. Consideration of Alternatives
New Jersey regulations require NJDEP to issue a Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit only if certain prerequisites are met. As relevant to this petition, New Jersey regulation requires NJDEP to consider practicable alternatives to the proposed activity that "would have a less adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem or would not involve a freshwater wetland or State open water" and "would not have other significant adverse environmental consequences...."
The Foundation claims that NJDEP insufficiently considered alternatives, including those that would have resulted in the minimum feasible environmental alteration or impairment of the aquatic ecosystem. The Foundation also alleges that NJDEP failed to rebut the presumption that the proposed activity has a practicable alternative — such as in size, scope, configuration, density, or design — that would avoid impact or have a lesser impact, a required analysis because the project is a "non-water dependent activity."
The record shows NJDEP considered potential alternatives, such as replacing the existing pipeline with a larger one rather than constructing a new loop, increasing operating pressure within the existing loop, and building various alternative routes. NJDEP weighed the options, adopted some, and rejected others as impractical. Specifically, NJDEP required Transco to reduce the size of the construction
Additionally, NJDEP considered whether the proposed activity would affect wetlands or waters categorized as "exceptional resource value" or related to trout production. NJDEP noted that wetlands in the Pleasant Run Loop were neither of exceptional resource value nor trout-producing, and that, although certain wetlands in the Skillman Loop were of exceptional resource value, compelling public need for the project outweighed the impact on wetlands and waters.
NJDEP not only considered but also acted upon alternatives, in direct contrast to the Foundation's allegations. Adoption of alternatives reduced open water and wetland disturbance by 38 percent for the Pleasant Run Loop and 48 percent for the Skillman Loop, according to an NJDEP analysis. For the Skillman Loop, NJDEP consideration of alternatives led to the selection of the shortest proposed route, of which 86 percent is collocated within Transco's existing pipeline right-of-way. NJDEP also required those portions not collocated to be constructed with a specific drilling technique to reduce wetland disturbance. Therefore, NJDEP's actions were not arbitrary or capricious.
b. Definition of Project Purpose
Next, the Foundation charges NJDEP defined the project purpose in such way as to preclude alternatives, by including a durational limitation as part of the purpose. The limitation rendered impracticable those construction methods that are less environmentally-adverse but more time-consuming.
c. Conclusions Regarding Threatened or Endangered Species in the Skillman Loop
The Foundation alleges that NJDEP ignored reports by the Princeton Ridge Coalition that the project would adversely affect the Red-shouldered Hawk and Barred Owl and that it failed to impose conditions in the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit for the Skillman Loop to address these impacts. A Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit may be issued only if NJDEP determines that the regulated activity "[w]ill not destroy, jeopardize[,] or adversely modify a present or documented habitat for threatened or endangered species; and shall not jeopardize the continued existence of a local population of a threatened or endangered species...."
d. Public Interest Analysis
To issue a Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit, NJDEP must determine the proposal is "in the public interest"
NJDEP did not fail to consider these factors. Regarding the first factor, the record shows consideration of impact on landowners, surrounding communities, and the environment. For example, NJDEP sought to minimize any adverse economic impact by requiring the use of existing rights-of-way and areas adjacent and the installation and modification of compressors within existing compressor station facilities. As for the second factor, NJDEP considered the extent of any detrimental effects and required Transco to implement best management practices during construction and restoration to limit disturbance to the immediate construction and restoration period and avoid permanent detrimental effects.
Likewise, regarding the third factor, NJDEP reviewed submissions, inspected sites to verify wetland and water boundary lines, and made wetlands resource value classifications as set forth in the Letters of Interpretation. In determining whether the proposal is in the public interest, NJDEP considered that wetlands in the Pleasant Run Loop were not of exceptional resource value, and that certain wetlands in the Skillman Loop were of exceptional resource value. Similarly, with respect to the proposed activity's public and private economic value, NJDEP found that the project would provide public and private economic value by expanding Transco's pipeline system capacity and serving end-users. Finally, the record shows NJDEP considered the functions and values provided by the freshwater wetlands and probable impact of the activity on public health and fish and wildlife. NJDEP examined the wetlands' fishery resources, resource value classification, and its role as habitat for endangered and threatened species. The Department also considered the scale and duration of disturbance of the wetlands, and whether the proposed activity would discharge toxic effluent or degrade ground or surface water.
The record rebuts the Foundation's charge that NJDEP reached its public interest determination without considering the appropriate factors. We therefore hold that NJDEP did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in issuing the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permits.
3. Flood Hazard Area Individual Permits
The Foundation claims that NJDEP erred by (1) impermissibly issuing the Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit for
Regarding the first allegation, the Flood Hazard Area Control Act, similar to the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act, requires NJDEP to determine that any proposed activity will not adversely affect threatened or endangered species or their habitats before issuing a Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit.
As to the second allegation, the Foundation argues that NJDEP incorrectly determined that Transco met the requirements of a hardship exception for the Flood Hazard Area Individual Permits. Transco had requested hardship exceptions in its applications because the Skillman Loop would affect 13.2 acres of riparian zone vegetation, and Pleasant Run Loop 7.54 acres, both exceeding regulatory limits.
In addition, one or more of the following requirements must be met:
Further, because the proposed construction would cross regulated waters, NJDEP must find that the construction of an open trench through the riparian zone is necessary to install the pipeline.
NJDEP's grant of hardship exceptions was not arbitrary or capricious. Although neither New Jersey regulations nor case law defines the term "hardship" as used here, state regulations indicate that the nature of the hardship may be economic, related to impact from floods, or otherwise subject to NJDEP's determination.
4. Grant of Minor Modification to the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit for the Skillman Loop
The Foundation challenges NJDEP's grant of a minor modification for Transco's Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit for the Skillman Loop as contrary to New Jersey regulation. After hard rock and boulders under wetlands in the Princeton Ridge damaged drilling equipment, Transco sought a minor modification to the permit to use a different drilling method than the method NJDEP had originally permitted. By regulation, a modification of the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit is "minor" if it involves
In granting the minor modification, NJDEP concluded FERC was the requisite "permitting agency" that required the change, because in approving the particular route of the Skillman Loop, FERC implicitly required the change in drilling technique to maintain the route. NJDEP also concluded the change in drilling method would not result in additional disturbance.
This challenge is not properly before us. At the time of the filing of the petition, the challenged agency action must be ripe for
Based on the foregoing, we hold NJDEP did not deprive the Foundation of sufficient opportunity to comment and did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in issuing permits and other authorizations. We further hold the challenge of the minor modification for the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit of the Skillman Loop is not properly before this Court.
The Riverkeeper raises two challenges to PADEP's issuance of a Water Quality Certification: (1) PADEP failed to review an environmental assessment prepared by Transco before issuing the Water Quality Certification, as required by state regulations; and (2) the materials that PADEP did review were substantively insufficient. The Riverkeeper has not demonstrated prejudice from these alleged errors.
1. Sequence of Agency Action
The Riverkeeper's first challenge involves whether PADEP was required to engage in an environmental review prior to issuing a Water Quality Certification, or whether PADEP may, as it did here, postpone environmental review until after a Water Quality Certification has been issued. Although PADEP has not published any procedures for issuing Water Quality Certifications, applicants for the Chapter 105 permits who are required to obtain Water Quality Certifications must "prepare and submit" an environmental assessment for PADEP's review.
The Riverkeeper has failed to demonstrate that it suffered harm from the sequence of PADEP's permitting actions. According to FERC's certificate, Transco could not begin construction until it obtained all applicable authorizations required under federal law. One of these federal authorizations, the Water Quality Certification, was conditioned on the issuance of, inter alia, a Chapter 105 Permit. Prior to issuing a Chapter 105 Permit, PADEP was required to review an environmental
The Riverkeeper alleges that as a result of PADEP's failure to review the environmental assessment prior to issuing the Water Quality Certification, FERC prematurely authorized tree clearing activities. According to the Riverkeeper, in delaying review of the environmental assessment, PADEP postponed substantive determinations until after the issuance of the Water Quality Certification, which allowed trees to be felled in contravention of Pennsylvania water quality standards. The record does not support the Riverkeeper's view of the timeline of events. In fact, FERC authorized tree clearing several weeks before PADEP issued the Water Quality Certification. Therefore, the Water Quality Certification could not have led to tree clearing because such clearing was approved without a Certification.
Moreover, the Riverkeeper is incorrect in assuming that tree-clearing is implicated by PADEP's substantive water quality determinations: the Army Corps of Engineers stated that the tree-clearing activity for which Transco sought authorization would not trigger the need for permits under the Clean Water Act. FERC designated the tree-clearing activity as "pre-construction activity," while FERC's certificate requires a Water Quality Certification only for "construction activity." This suggests that FERC allows tree-clearing activity to be authorized without Transco obtaining any Clean Water Act permits. Thus, there is no nexus between the tree clearing activity and the Water Quality Certification, and the Riverkeeper's challenge fails.
2. Sufficiency of Factfinding
The Riverkeeper alleges that PADEP relied on an incomplete environmental assessment from Transco and failed to correct the assessment's deficiencies prior to issuing the Water Quality Certification. PADEP and Transco counter that the majority of the Riverkeeper's arguments relate not to the issuance of the Water Quality Certification, but the issuance of the Chapter 105 Permit. We find this argument unavailing. Because the Chapter 105 Permit was a condition of the Water Quality Certification, it is inextricably intertwined with the Water Quality Certification.
The Riverkeeper alleges two problems with PADEP's environmental review: (1) PADEP relied on incorrect wetlands classifications without gathering data necessary to correct these classifications; and (2) construction activity was improperly authorized because the faulty wetlands classifications led PADEP to ignore construction impacts on exceptional value wetlands. We will consider these arguments in turn.
a. Wetlands Classifications
Under Pennsylvania regulations, classifying a wetland as "exceptional value"
To prevail in its petition, the Riverkeeper must show not only that an error was made but that the error in question prejudiced the Riverkeeper in some way.
The Riverkeeper's argument falls short. PADEP is not required to review a project's effect on wetlands prior to issuing a Water Quality Certification. In this case, a review was required before PADEP could issue the Chapter 105 Permit, and Transco had to obtain the Chapter 105 Permit as a condition of the Water Quality Certification.
Because the Riverkeeper has not demonstrated that PADEP relied on these classifications, we need not address the Riverkeeper's argument that PADEP failed to collect and analyze the necessary data to make appropriate wetlands classifications following their receipt of Transco's environmental assessment.
b. Authorization of Construction Activity
The Riverkeeper also alleges that PADEP erred in authorizing construction activity that violates state water quality standards. This challenge is broader than the Riverkeeper's challenge regarding FERC's authorization of tree-clearing: rather than arguing that a sequencing error resulted in some particular activity, the Riverkeeper here alleges that any construction that would follow the issuance of a Water Quality Certification violates Pennsylvania water quality standards. The Riverkeeper contends that this is true because any construction impact on an exceptional value wetland is "adverse." According to the Riverkeeper, because construction could not begin without the issuance of the Water Quality Certification, and construction would adversely affect what the Riverkeeper alleges are exceptional value wetlands, PADEP's decision to issue a Water Quality Certification authorized construction activity that violated Pennsylvania water quality standards. However, PADEP itself has no power to "authorize" construction of interstate natural gas facilities because the only government entity that may do so is FERC.
Because the Riverkeeper has not shown that it was prejudiced by PADEP's permitting actions, we see no reason to disturb PADEP's decision to issue the Water Quality Certification.
For the foregoing reasons, we conclude NJDEP and PADEP did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in issuing permits and related authorizations to Transco. We decline to address the challenge of NJDEP's grant of a minor modification to the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit of the Skillman Loop. Accordingly, we will deny the petitions.