The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today revised its schedule for reviewing the PennEast pipeline, resulting in a third delay for the proposed project. FERC’s deadline for releasing a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was delayed from February 17 to April 7, with a federal authorization decision deadline of July 7, 2017.
“Today’s decision reaffirms what citizens and government agencies have been saying for almost two years, that PennEast has yet to prove that its pipeline is needed or can be constructed without significant environmental impacts,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, ReThink Energy NJ and New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “FERC’s next step should be to reject this unneeded pipeline that would cause significant damage to our drinking water, preserved land and farmland and the health of our citizens and communities.”
In its notice of the delay, FERC cited the need to review additional environmental information filed by certain state agencies and PennEast since November 8, 2016, when it set its last schedule for issuance of the FEIS. Numerous state and federal agencies have raised concerns about missing data and analyses, and environmental impacts, including the risk of arsenic contamination of drinking water.
“These repeated delays signal that the pipeline is in trouble and cannot meet its projected in-service date in the second-half of 2018,” Gilbert said.
“Even with its eleventh hour submissions, PennEast has yet to provide any data supporting its claim that the PennEast project is needed. PennEast’s attempt to shore up the gaps in the record stands in direct contrast to consistent independent expert reports showing that there is no justification for this pipeline,” said Jennifer Danis, senior attorney, Eastern Environmental Law Center. “This delay will give FERC some additional time to wade through PennEast’s scattershot submissions, and to consider New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s comments regarding the insufficiency of the federal record for this project.”
“The PennEast pipeline is in jeopardy, as it should be. The evidence against the pipeline continues to mount as PennEast’s claims fall apart one by one,” said Jim Waltman, executive director, Stony Brook–Millstone Watershed Association. “This project only serves the gas companies affiliated with PennEast, which has been misleading the public throughout the review process.”
The New Jersey utilities that have signed contracts for gas through PennEast are PSE&G, South Jersey Gas, New Jersey Natural Gas, and Elizabethtown Gas. Their owner companies — PSEG, South Jersey Industries, New Jersey Resources, and Southern Co. Gas, respectively — are also the owners of PennEast. The New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel has said the project would be unfair to consumers, and that FERC should not accept these “self-dealing” contracts as evidence of need for the project. Rate Counsel’s independent analyses showed exactly how the project fails to pass legal muster.
See the full notice from FERC here.