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New Jersey asks FERC to reconsider approval for PennEast pipeline


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New Jersey asks FERC to reconsider approval for PennEast pipeline

New Jersey continues to challenge the 1.1-Bcf/d PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC pipeline project that would carry Marcellus Shale gas to East Coast markets, asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider its approval.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission asked FERC to rehear and rescind the $1.13 billion project's certificate order. In a Feb. 16 filing signed by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, the agencies also asked FERC to limit eminent domain authority. If the order is not fully pulled down, they want the use of eminent domain to be limited to condemning only those properties needed to gather environmental data until PennEast has met all environmental conditions and received permits.

The state said FERC based the project approval on "a fundamentally flawed final environmental impact statement," based on the fact that at the time commission staff issued the environmental review, PennEast had surveyed less than 35% of New Jersey properties along the route. For this reason, "the order itself is also defective," the state said. About one-third of the route is in New Jersey.

Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club Jeff Tittel said the state's request was a critical step in contesting the project. "By filing this motion, it allows New Jersey to potentially appeal the FERC approval in court," Tittel said.

The project previously met with friction from New Jersey and other environmental groups. On Feb. 2, the New Jersey attorney general refused PennEast's offer to buy right of way through properties where the state has an interest. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection also denied PennEast its first application for a Clean Water Act Section 401 permit due to missing survey data.

Patricia Kornick, a spokeswoman for PennEast, said the commission should deny the state's request. "It is the survey data, which is being requested by PennEast and collected by survey teams, that is necessary before a FERC order can even allow construction," she said in a Feb. 20 email. "Penneast also is on these state properties primarily at the request of the NJDEP as a way to maximize colocation with existing rights-of-way, which will minimize tree clearing and other environmental impacts."

As of the beginning of February, almost 75% of landowners along the pipeline's entire route had granted the developer survey access, according to Kornick.

The 120-mile pipeline would run through parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The project would include a compressor station. PennEast is a joint venture of companies of Enbridge Inc., Southern Co. Inc., New Jersey Resources Corp., South Jersey Industries Inc. and UGI Corp. (FERC dockets CP15-558)