PennEast Pipeline Seeks Approvals to Cross Delaware River and New Jersey

by Duane Nichols on January 14, 2020

PennEast natural gas pipeline is under construction in northeast Pennsylvania

PennEast, Way Behind Schedule, Asks for Two More Years to Build Pipeline

From an Article by Jon Hurdle, New Jersey Spotlight, January 6, 2020

The PennEast Pipeline Company is asking federal regulators for two more years to build its controversial natural gas pipeline through New Jersey and Pennsylvania, saying it has been the victim of “unforeseeable circumstances” that have delayed construction some two years beyond its original start date.

The company wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on December 30, saying it has used its “best efforts” to meet a FERC certificate that required putting the proposed pipeline into service by this month but now needs the extra time.

Critics of the controversial pipeline say, given legal and regulatory challenges, company is unlikely to meet its desired new deadline of January 2022

Arguably the biggest setback was an appeals court ruling in September, holding that the company was not entitled to build the pipeline on 49 parcels of protected land in which the State of New Jersey has an interest.

The company says it will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court but a decision on whether to hear the case isn’t expected until mid-2020, and even if the court takes the case, a ruling is unlikely before early 2021.

PennEast will be unable to resubmit its failed applications for water-quality and other permits to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection until any Supreme Court ruling on whether the pipeline can be built on state land.

Other permitting challenges exist

The troubled project must also obtain permits from the Delaware River Basin Commission, which is reviewing its application but has not scheduled required public hearings.

The continuing legal and regulatory requirements hanging over the project make it highly unlikely that it will be able to meet its desired new deadline of January 19, 2022 even if FERC grants the extension, critics said.

“I think it’s very unrealistic to go two years,” said Tim Duggan, an attorney for several local government entities and about 45 individual landowners who oppose the project. He estimated that any Supreme Court review would take six to nine months and even if PennEast wins its appeal, it will then have to face both the DEP — where permit applications can take a year to be decided — and the DRBC.

Faced with that timetable, Duggan said the company may be planning on asking for a further two years after the currently sought period expires. “They’re going to get the two years but I don’t think it’s enough time,” he said.

He argued that the chances of the pipeline being built are further limited by the environmental policies of the Murphy administration, which aims to create a 100% clean-energy economy by 2050, and would be undermining that goal if it approved a major piece of fossil fuel infrastructure like PennEast.

The $1 billion pipeline would carry natural gas about 120 miles from the Marcellus Shale of northeastern Pennsylvania, crossing beneath the Delaware River, and ending in Mercer County. The company says the project would bring low-cost natural gas to consumers in New Jersey but critics including the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, a watchdog for utility ratepayers, say it’s an unnecessary and environmentally damaging plan.

The project has aroused strong community opposition in New Jersey, especially from landowners who fear their private water wells will be contaminated by construction. Many have denied PennEast access to their land for surveying.

In Pennsylvania, PennEast is seeking permits from regulators, and has modified its route in four places.

What natural gas shortage?

Popular resistance is the main reason for the delays, argued Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “PennEast said they needed the pipeline in 2015 because of the shortage of gas in the region. Here we are five years later and there is still no shortage and PennEast is looking to delay the project even longer.”

In its two-page request to FERC, PennEast said it is “considering available remedies” to address the DEP’s “unfounded claim” that it could not move forward with the permit application because the Third Circuit Court of Appeals said the company could not build on the state lands.

The company, whose investors include a unit of New Jersey Resources, said postponement of the in-service date would have no impact on FERC’s findings that the project is in the public interest, and therefore that the company has the right to take private land under eminent domain.

“PennEast remains committed to constructing this important energy infrastructure project and placing the project into service as soon as possible,” it said.

Company spokeswoman Pat Kornick declined to say what legal remedies the company might pursue against the DEP, but said PennEast will appeal to the Supreme Court over the September appeals court decision by early February. FERC declined to comment.

In October, the DEP denied PennEast’s application for a water-quality permit for the second time, saying the Third Circuit’s ruling means the company “no longer has the legal authority to perform activities” on the 49 parcels.

The court ruling stands in the way of any further movement, said Tom Gilbert, campaign manager for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, an outspoken opponent of the project.

“At this point, given that Third Circuit decision, they are unable to move this project forward,” Gilbert said. “They don’t have legal authority over properties that they are depending on to build their pipeline in New Jersey, and unless and until they can find some way to resolve that issue, this project is going nowhere.”

Rather than planning for another extension, PennEast is likely looking at the end of the road for its project, Gilbert said. “If the Supreme Court refuses to take the case up, they are pretty much out of options.”


See also: FERC: Natural Gas Pipelines: Approved Pipeline Projects (2015 — 2019)

See also: Cineplex Rex — Natural Gas Pipeline Video Clips

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REUTERS NEWS January 31, 2020 at 1:15 am

U.S. FERC sides with PennEast natgas pipeline NJ eminent domain case

Reporting by Scott DiSavino, Reuters News Service, January 30, 2020

Jan 30 (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday supported the view of companies developing the $1 billion PennEast natural gas pipeline that they can use federal eminent domain to gain access to properties owned by New Jersey.

PennEast sought the FERC decision after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled in September that the company could not use federal eminent domain to condemn land controlled by the state.

FERC in January 2018 approved PennEast’s request to build the pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, and the company promptly sued in federal court under the U.S. Natural Gas Act to use the federal government’s eminent domain power to gain access to properties along the route.

New Jersey opposed construction of the pipeline and did not consent to PennEast’s condemnation suits on properties the state owns or in which it has an interest.

PennEast needs the land to build its 120-mile (190-km) pipeline, which is designed to deliver 1.1 billion cubic feet per day of gas from the Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania to customers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

One billion cubic feet is enough gas to supply about 5 million U.S. homes for one day.

PennEast has said it would take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court because the FERC decision alone cannot trump the Third Circuit decision.

The Commission’s order rejecting the court’s interpretation strengthens PennEast’s forthcoming petition to the U.S. Supreme Court,” PennEast spokeswoman Patricia Kornick said in an email, noting the company planned to file its Supreme Court petition on March 4.

Officials at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection were not immediately available to comment. The NJDEP denied PennEast’s permit applications in October, citing the Third Circuit’s eminent domain decision.

With the court case pending, the company did not say when it expected to start construction of the pipeline.

The companies seeking to build PennEast include units of South Jersey Industries Inc, New Jersey Resources Corp (NJR), Southern Co, Enbridge Inc and UGI Corp.

Companies with contracts to use the project include units of NJR, SJI, Southern, Public Service Enterprise Group Inc and Consolidated Edison Inc.

PennEast is not the only gas pipeline facing state opposition in the U.S. Northeast. Two of Williams Cos Inc’s proposed pipelines face state opposition, including Constitution in New York and Northeast Supply Enhancement in New Jersey.


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