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Environmentalists go after PennEast Pipeline's Pa. water permit

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network asked a federal appeals court to transfer their claim against PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC to the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board or rescind a water quality certificate issued by the state.

PennEast and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection claim that the federal court has "exclusive original jurisdiction" on the appeal and the environmental group is attempting to retain the property rights of its members that would be subject to eminent domain proceedings.

In an Aug. 7 motion, Delaware Riverkeeper requested that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit transfer the matter to the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board because the Department of Environmental Protection issued a conditional water quality certification instead of a final order. The water quality permit was issued in February.

The group added that the permit would allow the project to harm members' property even before PennEast meets any of the conditions of the Clean Water Act Section 401 permit. The damage, the filing said, would include "the degradation and loss of valuable wetlands and habitat" in the Delaware River watershed region, "where [Riverkeeper] members stand to lose the property on which they live, work and recreate."

Although PennEast spokesperson Patricia Kornick would not directly comment on the case, she said project sponsors are working with landowners and only obtains easements on private property as a last resort.

"In spite of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network's desperate stunts that do little more than waste time, tax dollars and government resources, PennEast looks forward to bringing this vital infrastructure project to the region and anticipates beginning construction in 2018," Kornick said in an Aug. 9 email. (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit docket 17-1456)

The 1.1-MMDth/d PennEast pipeline project would provide year-round gas transportation service from northern Pennsylvania to markets in eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and surrounding states. The project received a positive final environmental impact statement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in April. The project is a joint venture of Enbridge Inc.'s Spectra Energy Partners LP, Southern Co. Inc.'s Southern Gas Co., New Jersey Resources Corp.'s NJR Pipeline Co., South Jersey Industries Inc.'s SJI Midstream and UGI Corp.'s UGI Energy Services. (FERC docket CP15-558)