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FERC's PennEast environmental draft lacks data, NJ wildlife office says

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office expressed concernswith FERC's draft environmental impact statement for the 1.1 million-Dth/dPennEast natural gas pipeline project, saying it lacks data and supporting informationto determine possible impacts on federally protected species.

The New Jersey field office of the Fish and WildlifeService, or FWS, said the inadequate survey data and information submitted byPennEast Pipeline Co.LLC meant it could not accept the as abiological assessment to initiate a formal consultation. The FWScomments were filed with FERC on Sept. 28.

FERC on July 25 published a positive draft environmentalimpact statement, or EIS, for the project, which would serve Northeast and mid-Atlanticmarkets. PennEast would affect Hunterdon and Mercer counties in New Jersey andLuzerne, Carbon, Northampton and Bucks counties in Pennsylvania. TheSept. 28 filing covered the New Jersey territory.

The FWS office noted that the federally listed species thatcould be adversely impacted included the bog turtle, Indiana bat, northernlong-eared bat and dwarf wedgemussel.

In its comments, the field office said it would await moreinformation from PennEast after it has completed surveys and collectedadditional information on the species. "The service willcommence coordination with FERC on determining if formal consultation isnecessary and determine … the [effects] of the project on the above listedspecies," the FWS wrote.

The agency also said as proposed, the project would havesignificant impacts on migratory birds.

A completed survey for the necessary information could haveto wait for PennEast to initiate eminent domain proceedings to finish thesurveys of the affected areas.

In an interview with S&P Global Market Intelligence,Patricia Kornick, spokeswoman for PennEast, said the project is workingdirectly with landowners who may be affected. "It is in thebest interest of the landowners to share their properties' specific concerns,and it's also in the best interest of the community overall, as well as theproject," Kornick said. "There are hundreds of comments that we willstill be reviewing in relationship to the [draft EIS]. … PennEast will continueto provide FERC with all the necessary information."

PennEast filed more than 30 route modifications with FERC on Sept. 23 thatincluded an increased amount of co-location of the project and decreased impactsto wetlands. Kornick said the modifications addressed recommendations broughtup in the draft EIS and were based on input provided by landowners.

The project would build and install 120 miles of pipelinesto deliver Marcellus Shale resources. It is expected to cost about $1 billion.

PennEast is a partnership between 's , , 's NJRPipeline Co., Public ServiceEnterprise Group Inc.'s PSEG Power LLC, South Jersey Industries Inc.'s SJI Midstream andUGI Corp. subsidiaryUGI Energy Services.(CP15-558)