Commentary: PennEast Pipeline Is Good For New Jersey

August 9, 2016

Guest editorial by Pat Kornick. Published in the Courier-Post.

The PennEast pipeline will lower energy costs for families and businesses in every corner of New Jersey; deliver clean, American energy that is better for our environment; and create thousands of jobs during construction. One study found the region would’ve saved nearly $1 billion in both electric and gas bills in one recent winter.

With 90 percent of the future gas already under long-term contracts years before the PennEast pipeline is approved and built, there’s no question this project is needed and beneficial.

In a major milestone for the project, federal regulators have now agreed in an approximately 1,200-page report that this project can be constructed with minimal impact on the environment. That’s great news for New Jersey.

Given the need and countless economic benefits, it’s no surprise that every major business and labor organization in New Jersey and Pennsylvania supports its construction. It also has garnered significant bipartisan support from a long list of responsible elected officials.

Unfortunately, the Gannett New Jersey Editorial Board has fallen victim to special-interest hyperbole.The recent editorial about PennEast (“Stop PennEast pipeline scam,” Our View, Aug. 2) is riddled with inaccuracies, exaggerated claims, and misstatements.

In particular, PennEast has spent the last two years seeking input from landowners, regulators, public officials and others to help refine the route and reduce impacts on the community and environment. The project anticipates almost another two years of additional multiagency, multistate environmental reviews.

Those collective efforts have been successful in improving the route. PennEast has implemented dozens of route modifications resulting from this feedback obtained through more than 250 meetings and thousands of public comments over the last two years. Equally important, the PennEast pipeline runs right next to existing overhead electric transmission lines on nearly half the route in New Jersey, significantly reducing the need for tree-clearing and minimizing disruptions.

The editorial’s scare tactics about endangering drinking water are not only inflammatory, but false. Federal regulators examined the potential impacts on geology, soils, wetlands, vegetation and wildlife, air quality, noise, cumulative impacts and, yes, on water. In nearly every category, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found the project would not have significant impacts, or that impacts would be effectively minimized — and that surface and groundwater impacts would be minimal.

With respect to cumulative impacts, FERC found they would be effectively limited, and that the pipeline could “contribute to a cumulative improvement in regional air quality if a portion of the natural gas associated with the Project displaces the use of other more polluting fossil fuels.”

The editorial comes to the false conclusion regarding pipeline need. Consumers only need to look back two winters ago to understand that during peak periods of demand, our existing pipeline system does not move enough gas to market for home and commercial heating or electric generation, forcing natural-gas prices in the New Jersey region to skyrocket to over 40 times their average.

Because of the link between natural gas and electricity prices, many homeowners and businesses saw these huge increases reflected in both the gas and electric bills. In some cases, large energy users stopped operations altogether because the cost of energy was too high.

It’s the simple forces of supply and demand that present real challenges for long-term energy reliability and cost — not just yesterday, today or tomorrow, but decades into the future.

Federal regulators evaluated whether existing or proposed natural-gas pipeline systems could meet the same objectives as the PennEast pipeline project while offering an environmental advantage. FERC found “there is no available capacity for existing pipeline systems to transport the required volumes of natural gas to the range of delivery points proposed by PennEast.”

The state-of-the-art, American-made PennEast pipeline will safely deliver 1 billion cubic feet of clean natural gas every day. And while a balanced electric grid with solar and wind is important, it’s absolutely essential to have reliable natural-gas supplies to heat homes and businesses when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

We are encouraged that objective federal regulators agree that this project can deliver everyone lower energy costs, while protecting the environment. Readers should learn the facts at www.penneastpipeline.com.

Pat Kornick is project spokesperson for the PennEast pipeline.