APRIL REPORT TO CARBON COUNTY STAKEHOLDERS
By SAVE CARBON COUNTY
PennEast/UGI Pipeline Project- Prepared 5/6/2019
As noted in the March report, PennEast filed for approval of a route change on 2/19/19 and asked for FERC approval of that route change by 7/1/19. They also stated that the proposed route change makes the pipeline even more environmentally friendly and therefore no further study was necessary. They were disappointed on both counts.
In a surprising response, FERC determined that the proposed change merited a further environmental assessment, and they announced that the earliest date that approval of the new route can be granted is 9/20/19. If FERC decides to accept public comment, which is likely, the approval will be delayed until early 2020. This means that the pipeline which was originally planned to be operational in 2017 will not begin construction until 2020 at the earliest.
FERC commissioner Cheryl LaFleur will depart the commission this year. This leaves the commission with only three members—one Democrat and two Republicans. Because no one political party can hold more than three seats, the White House will have to nominate a Democrat and a Republican to fill the two vacancies. LaFleur and the other Democrat on the panel (Glick) have been raising objections to some pipeline decisions. Until the new commissioners are nominated and confirmed, decision making by the commission will be slowed.
The project has also run into other delays: The New Jersey Attorney General has filed an appeal in Federal Court asserting that the State’s sovereign immunity is violated by the PennEast condemnation of state-owned lands. New Jersey also requested a stay on these condemnation cases and an expedited appeal. PennEast opposed these requests but the stay and the expedited appeal were granted. Further, the New Jersey DEP has identified nine potential historic sites in the pipeline’s path. Each of these sites will require further study meaning more delays and, depending on the outcome of the studies, a second major route change could be required.
Transco, one of the largest U.S. pipeline companies, has announced preliminary plans to expand an existing pipeline that would directly compete with PennEast. It appears that Transco’s plans were motivated by the perception that PennEast is a vulnerable project. If Transco moves forward, FERC may have to reconsider the need for PennEast.
Save Carbon County is a member of a regional and two-state effort to stop the PennEast/UGI pipeline. Local information can be found on FaceBook at “Stop the Fracking Pipeline.” Regional Information can be found on FaceBook at “Stop PennEast Pipeline.”