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PennEast changes pipeline plan


PennEast has announced it will split construction of its natural gas pipeline into two phases.

Phase one would consist of 68 miles of 36-inch pipe, built within Pennsylvania and expected to be operational by November 2021. No new property owners will be affected by the first phase of the project, PennEast officials said. The second phase of the natural gas pipeline would include the remaining route in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which it expects would be completed in 2023.

“This announcement is a big step forward for families and businesses in eastern Pennsylvania and the Greater Philadelphia region who will finally benefit from greater access to low-cost natural gas, by separating the certificated PennEast route into two phases,” Anthony Cox, chairman of PennEast’s board of managers, said in a statement last week.

Cox said the staggered approach allows “sufficient time for permit and legal issues to be resolved.”

The company announced the move Jan. 31 in a filing of an amendment with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Under this revised approach, the pipeline company will have three delivery points in Pennsylvania: UGI Utilities, Inc., which would serve the Blue Mountain Ski Resort, and new interconnections with Columbia Gas and Adelphia Gateway

Phase one would terminate in Bethlehem Township, Northampton County. The new interconnections, which will be built on property already owned by PennEast, would be located south of Route 22 and west of Route 33.

The pipeline company’s announcement came after FERC voted 2 to 1 to approve PennEast’s request to interpret the federal Natural Gas Act as allowing PennEast to use eminent domain to build the pipeline, a seemingly odd position for a regulatory body to take.

“FERC is backing PennEast’s attempt to take state public land in the Supreme Court. This decision is an outrageous interference in legal process,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said.

Tittel said FERC’s approval was “not unexpected.”

“This is a complete abuse of power and just another move by the Trump Administration to push fossil fuel pipelines and block renewable energy,” Tittel said.

Despite the FERC ruling Patricia Kornick, PennEast spokesperson, said they will still petition the Supreme Court to review the three-judge panel’s decision. The petition is due March 4.

A number of New Jersey lawmakers have gone on record opposing the project.

“I will do everything in my power to make sure landowners are protected against the PennEast Pipeline,” Congressman Tom Malinowski, R-7, said last Friday at Lambertville’s State of the City Address. “I do believe we will win that fight.”

Last year, a three-judge panel from the 3rd Circuit U.S. Appeals Court barred PennEast from using federal law to seize public properties controlled by New Jersey. State officials did not consent to PennEast’s condemnation of 42 preserved properties.

PennEast still needs the necessary permits under the National Historic Preservation Act and Clean Water Act. The Delaware River Basin Commission also has not yet ruled on the application for the project.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has held up PennEast’s Clean Water Act permit, deeming the application incomplete. The denial came after last year’s federal appeals court ruling blocking PennEast from using eminent domain to acquire the state lands for the pipeline route.

Cox said the move to split the pipeline “again proves the PennEast partners are fully committed to the entire project.”

As initially conceived, the 110-mile $1 billion pipeline will run from Luzerne County, crossing the Delaware River north of Milford, N.J., then running south through Hunterdon County before ending at Transco’s trans-continental pipeline, near Pennington, N.J.