CTNJ file photo
Chris Herb, president of CEMA (CTNJ file photo)

A trade association for more than 600 heating oil dealers filed a lawsuit against the state Friday, alleging it violated environmental laws when it approved a 900-mile expansion of natural gas lines without an environmental study.

The lawsuit filed by the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association against the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority accuses the state of failing to do an Environmental Impact Evaluation before approving the expansion project.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection called the lawsuit “groundless and based on inaccurate information.” There was never anything in the regulations that required an environmental study.

The heating oil dealers believe that like other projects this one should gauge whether the construction and operation of the pipelines or mains, such as the clearing of trees, would result in temporary or permanent alteration of wildlife habitat and whether any of the work will create temporary or permanent air or noise quality impacts, such as emissions from equipment installing pipelines or mains or the emission of criteria air pollutants from compressor stations.

“They are going to build them in your streets. They are going to build them across your front yards and no one has considered what impact that will have on the environment and your home,” Chris Herb, president of CEMA, said. “We are calling to halt this plan immediately until we know exactly what harm it might do.”

But Dennis Schain, a DEEP spokesman, said, “The lawsuit is simply another in a series of steps by the heating oil dealers aimed at protecting their lock on the market and preventing Connecticut homeowners and businesses from having a choice to select a cheaper and cleaner fuel.”

Herb said that’s absolutely not the case.

“This lawsuit is about making the utilities follow the rules like every other industry in the state of Connecticut needs to do,” Herb said. “This has nothing to do with trying to stop the project. All we are saying is that the utilities need to follow the law and take into consideration the impact this massive plan will have on the environment and our homes.”

There are currently approximately 415,000 natural gas customers in Connecticut and the plan calls for natural gas to be made available to 300,000 additional customers.