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PennEast to reapply for state-issued water permit; Sierra Club urges denial

PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC will again apply to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for a wetlands permit to proceed with construction on its 1.1-Bcf/d natural gas pipeline project between the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

In 2017, the Department of Environmental Protection found the PennEast application lacked information and denied a wetlands permit for the project. The developer said the project is designed to meet gas and electricity demand in New Jersey. But the company is ready to go back to the agency.

"Federal regulators in January 2018 confirmed the PennEast Pipeline is necessary and safe for the environment," PennEast spokesperson Patricia Kornick said on Aug. 7. "An extensive team of engineers, environmental scientists and other experts are in the process of analyzing field-level survey data that will enable PennEast to submit the freshwater wetlands permit application to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection this summer."

PennEast, a joint venture of affiliates of Enbridge Inc., Southern Co. Inc., New Jersey Resources Corp., South Jersey Industries Inc. and UGI Corp., anticipated beginning construction in 2020. During an Aug. 6 earnings call, New Jersey Resources executives said the company would push back the bulk of its spending on PennEast, spending $11.4 million in 2020 and $214.2 million in 2021.

The Sierra Club opposes the developers' return to the permit application. "The PennEast Pipeline project would cut an ugly scar through the most scenic parts of the Delaware Valley and through an incredible amount of environmentally sensitive areas, critical drinking water, and historic properties," New Jersey chapter Director Jeff Tittel said in an Aug. 7 news release. "We need the [Department of Environmental Protection] and Gov. [Phil] Murphy to do their job and live up to their promises" to stop the project.

Environmental groups, lawmakers, landowners and state agencies have challenged the project throughout its development. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the project in January 2018. In March 2018, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., citing eminent domain issues, asked the federal commission to reconsider its approval.

The project consists of a compressor station and a 120-mile, 36-inch-diameter pipeline running between Luzerne County, Pa., and Mercer County, N.J. (FERC docket CP15-558)