Commentary: PennEast not looking for another pipeline route

December 13, 2016

The following column is by Pat Kornick, spokesperson for PennEast Pipeline Company. This originally appeared in the December 13, 2016, Intelligencer.

A recent Intelligencer story falsely stated that PennEast was “looking at (an) alternative route” for its natural gas pipeline. This is not true, despite deceptive allegations by the New Jersey Sierra Club, which spurred the story and misleading headline.

The PennEast pipeline will deliver low-cost natural gas from northeastern Pennsylvania to eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It has been in development for many years, and under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) review process since August 2014.

The PennEast pipeline route crosses 1.7 miles of northern Bucks County. Based off recommendations by landowners, this portion of the route has been adjusted only slightly since the project’s official application was submitted to FERC on Sept. 24, 2015. Any statement to the contrary is simply false.

Despite the misinformation spread by the New Jersey Sierra Club and its director, Jeff Tittel, PennEast is not proposing any new changes to the route in Bucks County.

PennEast Pipeline Company has had hundreds of meetings with landowners, local, state and federal officials, regulatory agencies and other community leaders to develop a route that minimizes community and environmental impact.

Through that outreach, PennEast has incorporated numerous route adjustments, the most recent of which were in September of this year.

The September adjustments reflected PennEast’s continued efforts to reduce impacts and respond to valuable input from landowners and regulatory agencies

Mr. Tittel constantly criticizes PennEast’s efforts to reduce the region’s energy costs. He minimizes PennEast’s efforts to adjust its route based on local input, comparing them to “shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.” The truth is, he and his group are the iceberg in frigid waters threatening economic growth, new jobs and lower energy bills for families and businesses.

Economists found that had the PennEast pipeline been in service in the winter of 2013-2014, it would have saved eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey electric and natural gas customers nearly $900 million. That’s in one winter alone.

Those savings do not take into account days when temperatures were the coldest and natural gas demand was the highest. Subsequently, the additional billion cubic feet of clean natural gas that PennEast will provide each day could lower energy bills even further.

The New Jersey Sierra Club’s recent dishonest claims about PennEast — suggesting a new route through central Bucks County — are irresponsible and careless. Residents deserve the truth.

PennEast pipeline’s route will cover a land area slightly over one square mile. To lessen impact, 37 percent of PennEast’s route is co-located within existing utility rights of way, like power lines. The right-of-way width also will be more narrowly maintained in forests and wetlands to minimize disturbance. These are among the numerous measures being taken to protect the environment while safely delivering low-cost natural gas to energize our communities for decades to come.

Although the pipeline will cover slightly over one square mile of land, it will deliver enough natural gas to fuel the equivalent of five 1,000-megawatt natural gas power plants. To create that much energy from solar panels would require a solar array spanning 285 square miles, or about half the land area of Bucks County. Similarly, to generate that much energy from wind would require 6,074 industrial-sized wind turbines.

While renewable energy is an important part of the country’s energy mix, and many of the PennEast Pipeline Company member companies have significant investments in renewable energy, wind and solar do not come close to the reliability of clean-burning natural gas. Most of the time the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, but natural gas is there to keep the lights on, refrigerators cold and showers hot.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s diverse energy mix provides a bright future for generations. As that mix increasingly takes advantage of the environmental and economic benefits of one of the world’s greatest natural gas reserves, PennEast looks forward to positioning the region on a pathway to prosperity.