Hopewell Township officials today implored the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to review the potential anti-trust violations implicit in the ownership structure of the PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC.
In comments filed on Monday, the officials maintain that the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) issued in August by FERC, was required to evaluate the economic effects of the proposed pipeline, but failed to do so when it ignored the project’s potential for violations of anti-trust laws and regulations.
“We call upon FERC to review this ownership scheme that will allow the PennEast companies to make huge profits, while NJ residents are left footing the bill,” said Hopewell Township Mayor Kevin Kuchinski.
According to township officials, PennEast is a consortium of seven different companies in the natural gas business, all of which are or have subsidiaries that are natural gas distribution regulated monopolies. This ownership structure, they said, could enable the PennEast member companies to “manipulate the market for natural gas prices in the New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania region, and in do so, raise prices to consumers.” The PennEast companies are: AGL Resources, NJR Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of New Jersey Resources, Public Service Enterprise Group, South Jersey Industries and UGI Energy Services, a subsidiary of UGI Corporation.
“They propose building a pipeline where they control the majority of the capacity, control the ability to charge the highest possible price for its use and pass on those inflated costs to ratepayers”.
The township analysis concluded that the PennEast ownership scheme is a “Horizontal Collaboration” that would facilitate the manipulation of prices and may be illegal and requires specific FERC review.
Hopewell’s comment states, “If the FERC shows itself unwilling to act on this issue, we reserve the right to call on the Federal Trade Commission and the US Department of Justice, who are empowered to take such action to enforce the Antitrust law if other federal agencies fail in this capacity, to do so.”
The full text of the comments filed with FERC can be found at: http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20161205-5453