Citizens’ Voice: PennEast Pipeline Project Moving Forward with Route Changes

August 13, 2015

A new pipeline to bring natural gas from the Marcellus Shale to customers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey is moving forward.

On Tuesday, the first-year anniversary of the date PennEast Pipeline Co. officially announced the project, representatives from the company met with The Citizens’ Voice for an editorial board.

Since then, the company has been in the pre-filing phase with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which includes doing studies, seeking public input and fine-tuning the pipeline route. The company expects to file a formal application in September with the commission, which approves, regulates and inspects pipelines.

The new pipeline would connect with the Auburn natural gas gathering line belonging to UGI Energy Services LLC — which is a partner in PennEast — at the Transco interstate pipeline hub in Dallas Township. The Auburn line brings gas from wells in Susquehanna and Wyoming counties to the Transco pipeline.

“When we looked at the project (PennEast), we said this is a natural extension of Auburn,” PennEast project manager Anthony Cox said.
Asked how much of the gas would be exported, Cox replied, “None.”

Customers for the gas, besides UGI Energy Services LLC, include the independent PPL spinoff Talen Energy Marketing LLC; Consolidated Edison; the New Jersey Natural Gas Co. and South Jersey Gas Co.

The 113.8-miles of 36-inch diameter pipeline would run through Dallas Township, Kingston Township, West Wyoming, Wyoming, Jenkins Township, Laflin Township, Plains Township and Bear Creek Township in Luzerne County. It would end in Hopewell Township, New Jersey.

PennEast spokeswoman Patricia Kornick said there have been changes along the proposed route due to factors such as input from residents and environmental studies. The new route was released on July 22, and can be viewed at penneastpipeline.com.

Cox said some re-routes were rejected because they were not environmentally sound, but PennEast tries to accommodate landowners.

In response to whether there were landowners who would not allow the company on their properties, Cox said there were significantly more in New Jersey than in Pennsylvania, where people seem more used to living with natural gas and its infrastructure. There is also more organized opposition.
“We don’t expect everybody to embrace the idea of a natural gas pipeline,” Kornick said.

She said it is frustrating when people believe misinformation rather than factual information from agencies such as the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

PennEast can use eminent domain on landowners who refuse to cooperate, but that is only as a last resort, Cox said.

Landowners keep their properties but give PennEast a permanent right-of-way easement to build and maintain the pipeline, in exchange for a one-time fee to cover devaluation of the land, plus any damages that might occur during construction, such as tearing up a farmer’s crop, Cox said.
For the most part, the company seeks open spaces, large parcels and rural areas for the route: “We try to avoid backyards, per se,” he said.
Kornick said surveying, which is going on now, is very important. She said granting survey permission is different from signing an easement agreement. In fact, a survey could make the company determine they don’t want the pipeline on a landowner’s property.

Cox said PennEast would probably start making easement agreements with landowners next month.

Pipeline construction would begin as soon as PennEast gets permission from FERC and has received all required permits, and Cox said the targeted completion date is late 2017.

After construction, the company will replant and otherwise attempt to return the land to its original state.

“We’ll restore it as close to the way it used to be as possible,” Cox said.

To view the Citizens’ Voice article, visit http://m.citizensvoice.com/news/penneast-pipeline-project-moving-forward-with-route-changes-1.1925712  Documents related to the project can also be found at www.ferc.gov.