Among the adverse environmental impacts from building the Constitution Pipeline — a 124-mile transportation system for moving fracked Marcellus shale gas from Pennsylvania into the Northeast market — is potential harm to several rare species of bats, one of which is federally identified as threatened and another as endangered. According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), “Construction and operation of the pipeline could impact bat species through direct mortality if clearing affects occupied roost trees, or indirectly through habitat loss and disruption. Yet in early December 2014, FERC granted Constitution Pipeline permission to begin construction of the interstate natural gas pipeline.
Importance of Bats to North American Ecosystems
Bats play a critical role in maintaining biodiversity, by crosspollinating flowering plants and scattering the seeds of native plants. They also have an important function in controlling insect pests; a little brown bat, for example, can consume 3,000 insects in a single night, including insects that damage crops. Five species of bats live within the project’s range. Among them is the Indiana bat, which has been listed as an endangered species for nearly 50 years. More recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced on April 1, 2015 that the northern long-eared bat would also be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a threatened species. That same day, the International Petroleum Association of America released a press release opposing the new FWS rule, arguing that it would limit oil and gas industry activity. The other three species include the little brown bat, with protection status currently under review by the FWS; the smallfooted bat, considered “threatened” in Pennsylvania and a “species of concern” in New York; and the silver-haired bat, a “species of concern” in Pennsylvania.