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FERC pushes back PennEast review schedule again

FERC again delayed its environmental review of PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC's 1.1-MMDth/d Mid-Atlantic natural gas pipeline project, saying the process, pushed back a couple of times already, would take an additional seven weeks.

PennEast appeared to take the news in stride. "After a two-and-a-half year review of PennEast Pipeline Company's application, including the 33 route adjustments announced in September to further reduce environmental impact, the additional 49-day review period FERC announced today will help ensure a complete and thorough review," spokeswoman Pat Kornick said in a statement. "PennEast looks forward to receiving the final environmental impact statement (EIS) and anticipates the line will be operational in the second half 2018."

Kornick pointed out that FERC in an initial environmental assessment had said the project would have minimal environmental impact.

In a Jan. 23 notice of revised schedule, FERC said its staff pushed back the expected date of the project's environmental impact statement from Feb. 17 to April 7. The Feb. 17 date was set in a notice of revised schedule Nov. 8, 2016, when staff previously pushed back the date of the environmental review. In April 2016, PennEast Pipeline said it was committed to an in-service date in late 2018 after FERC pushed back the environmental review to December 2016.

Some energy industry analysts have expressed concern with the delays, but PennEast has said the extensions are normal with a large pipeline project. Another delay certainly looks better to the developer than a whole new environmental review, which the Sierra Club requested in December 2016. As with most pipeline projects, the PennEast permit application has attracted controversy, with loud voices for and against.

The approximately 120-mile pipeline project would move gas from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. PennEast Pipeline is a joint venture of Spectra Energy Partners LP, Southern Co.'s Southern Co. Gas, New Jersey Resources Corp.'s NJR Pipeline Co., Public Service Enterprise Group Inc.'s PSEG Power LLC, South Jersey Industries Inc.'s SJI Midstream and UGI Corp.'s UGI Energy Services. (FERC docket CP15-558)