FAQ–Frequently Asked Questions
Who is PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC?
NJR Pipeline Company; SJI Midstream; Southern Company Gas; Spectra Energy Partners; and UGI Energy Services are the member companies that form PennEast Pipeline Company LLC (PennEast). Collectively, the member companies safely and reliably have delivered energy to Pennsylvania and New Jersey consumers for more than 400 years and serve more than three million customers.
What is the PennEast Pipeline?
The proposed PennEast Pipeline Project will reduce energy costs and increase reliability for natural gas and electric consumers in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The approximately 120-mile, primarily 36-inch diameter, underground pipeline will originate in Dallas, Luzerne County, in northeast Pennsylvania, and end at Transco’s pipeline interconnection near Pennington, Mercer County, New Jersey. The Project includes a single compressor station, proposed in Kidder Township, Carbon County, Pennsylvania. As an interstate natural gas pipeline project, the PennEast Pipeline is under the jurisdictional review of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
How will communities benefit from the PennEast Pipeline?
By helping to alleviate existing pipeline constraints, PennEast will increase reliability, reduce costs and stabilize energy prices, particularly in times of high demand generally associated with storms and extreme weather conditions. Families and businesses in eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York will reap the benefits of an environmentally preferred, locally produced supply of natural gas that serves a variety of everyday uses — including home heating and electricity.
Additionally, as coal-fired power plants retire or convert to natural gas, communities also will enjoy the many environmental benefits of electricity derived from clean-burning natural gas.
During construction, PennEast will have a $1.62 billion positive economic impact, supporting approximately 12,000 jobs with an associated $740 million in wages, according to a 2015 study by Econsult Solutions. Local restaurants; convenience stores; rental equipment vendors; fueling stations and retailers will be among the beneficiaries of this billion-dollar investment.
On a long-term basis, state and local communities will benefit from various tax revenues generated during the ongoing operation of the PennEast Pipeline. In fact, PennEast estimates it will generate close to $65 million in state and local tax benefits during the Pipeline’s first five years of operation and more than $100 million in Federal tax benefits.
Additionally, reduced natural gas and electric costs and increased reliability are among the benefits to area communities. Such cost savings will contribute to increased disposable income for families. In fact, the 2015 study by Econsult Solutions found for every $10 million in consumer savings offered by the PennEast Pipeline Project, consumers would have the added benefit of generating $13 million in economic benefits to the region.
Subsequently, natural gas pipelines play a major economic development role as companies and industries seek to locate their operations and accompanying jobs near affordable and reliable energy sources. The ability to facilitate greater use of abundant, clean burning, domestically produced natural gas also provides American energy security.
Will this pipeline benefit energy consumers in New Jersey?
Yes. The proximity of shale gas has enabled New Jersey customers to see a 47 percent reduction in gas prices since 2009. Despite these savings, the full benefit of supply in close proximity cannot be realized without new pipelines, particularly with energy demand that continues to increase. Had the PennEast Pipeline been in service in the winter 2013/2014, New Jersey electric and natural gas consumers would have saved $378.4 million, according to a March 2015 Concentric study. (Pennsylvania electric and natural gas consumers would have saved $515 million during the same timeframe.)
Who decides if a pipeline project gets built?
As an interstate natural gas pipeline, the PennEast Pipeline Project is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). PennEast must obtain a FERC Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, in addition to various state and local permits, before constructing the pipeline.
How can PennEast use preserved lands and open space for the Pipeline?
The underlying basis for using public funds for the acquisition of preserved open space and farmland in New Jersey is to promote a public benefit. Diversions for use of these lands are based on the same concept – a general public benefit. Ensuring a supply of clean, affordable fuel for home heating and electricity is sound public policy with enormous public benefits.
Through collaboration with stakeholders, open space inventories will increase as a result of PennEast’s mitigation measures. Once the pipeline has been constructed, the land returns to its intended use as open space or preserved farmland.
How is the final route determined?
One of the first steps in developing a route is using a variety of resources to identify a broad corridor where the pipeline generally will begin and end in the safest and most direct manner. Resources include conducting aerial inspections and computer analyses, which involves gathering data from Geographical Information System (GIS) databases and conducting additional research.
Information gathered during this initial phase helped PennEast engineers and consultants develop several route alternatives. Because there are many environmental (public water supplies, wetlands, protected and preserved areas, threatened and endangered species) and socio-economic factors that must be considered, it is important for PennEast’s technical staff to conduct on-the-ground civil, environmental and cultural field surveys on public and private properties.
Due to the length and complexity of the proposed project, PennEast also chose to enter the voluntary pre-filing phase of the comprehensive FERC review process. This phase established a framework (e.g., open houses, scoping meeting, online comments, etc.) to obtain early feedback from landowners, agencies, public officials and others.
Combined with extensive safety, engineering and environmental studies, that input helped PennEast define the proposed route. PennEast included the proposed route in its September 24, 2015, application seeking a FERC Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. Over the next several months, FERC will review the Application, responses to data requests and information gained from on-the-ground surveys and other studies, to make a final determination regarding the proposed route. FERC also has retained an independent firm to conduct a comprehensive review of environmental impacts pertaining to the final route and likely will be issuing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for public comment in the near future.
Click here to read FERC’s Notice of Intent to Prepare Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed PennEast Pipeline. Another source of general information is the booklet “An Interstate Natural Gas Facility on My Land? What Do I Need To Know?”
What steps did PennEast take to listen to impacted landowners, public officials and other stakeholders before determining its proposed route?
Shortly after announcing the Project in August 2014, PennEast spent nearly a full year in the FERC pre-filing phase and hosted more than 250 meetings to gather early input from landowners, resource agencies, public officials and other stakeholders. PennEast also has hosted landowner-specific informational sessions, as well as responded to more than 1,500 inquiries through the Project e-mail and toll-free line.
Additionally, approximately 1,100 guests joined PennEast at five open houses along the route. The open houses provided attendees an opportunity to visit different stations to talk with experts in the fields of pipeline safety, environment, construction, operations, and land. Attendees were able to select stations of greatest interest to them and talk with the respective subject matter experts.
Following the PennEast open houses, FERC hosted scoping meetings. These public forums provided interested parties another opportunity to voice their opinions. FERC hosted the scoping meetings in February 2015, in Bethlehem, Jim Thorpe and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; and in Ewing and Hampton, New Jersey. FERC also provided opportunity for interested parties to submit online and via mail comments directly to FERC.
What factors does PennEast consider in selecting a pipeline route?
PennEast’s team of engineers and consultants balanced the most direct pipeline route with numerous safety, environmental, structural, conservation and land-use factors. Routes are designed to minimize impact on communities and environment. PennEast also will use existing utility corridors to help minimize impacts; however, co-locating a pipeline with other utility lines is not always an option and can be pursued only when safely and logistically feasible.
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What safety measures are required?
Safety is PennEast’s top priority. PennEast will adopt design features and operating practices that meet or exceed stringent industry and regulatory standards, including implementation of a comprehensive cathodic protection system to prevent corrosion.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) regulations require pipelines to have a number of safety measures that must be built into pipeline projects. These include but are not limited to: design of pipeline and use of quality material; testing procedures to ensure the pipeline can more than adequately operate within the designated operating pressure limits; cathodic protection system design; valve spacing; testing and qualification of employees; ongoing monitoring and inspection of the pipeline facilities; internal inspection of the pipeline, welding procedures and testing; pipeline depth; public awareness programs; and odorization requirements.
How does PennEast ensure pipelines operate safely?
Safety is at the forefront of the PennEast Pipeline Project, starting with the design, material selection and operating protocols. After construction, PennEast will conduct leak surveys; send sensor equipment through the line to ensure integrity has not been compromised; and walk the Pipeline route.
PennEast also will monitor how much gas is transported, operating pressures and flow throughout the system, 24/7. This is done in real-time through the gas control center. If anything unusual surfaces, PennEast immediately will send field personnel to address the issue and respond in the best interest of protecting the community and environment. Additionally, the Pipeline will be marked clearly at all road crossings, creeks, property lines, and fence lines to minimize the potential for third-party damage.
Do you train or coordinate with local first response agencies?
Yes, first responders are an integral part of PennEast’s commitment to safe operations. The PennEast partners have a long history of proactively engaging local first response agencies and will continue this strong working relationship. PennEast will train and coordinate with all first response agencies along the Project route, starting with communicating construction plans and expanding into training and coordination during ongoing operations. PennEast also is accepting applications through its Community Connector Grant program to help support first responder services and programs. For additional information, visit: http://penneastpipeline.com/community-investment.
How does transportation of natural gas by pipeline compare to other modes of transportation?
Pipelines are the safest, most environmentally friendly and efficient mode of transportation, according to PHMSA. In fact, data shows that while natural gas demand has increased, the frequency of serious pipeline incidents has decreased by 90 percent over the last three decades alone, primarily as a result of significant efforts by pipeline companies to upgrade and modernize infrastructure.
For additional information about pipeline safety, please visit the following websites:
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What is a right of way?
A right of way is a limited right to use land for specific purposes. PennEast will compensate landowners for the right to construct, operate and maintain the underground PennEast Pipeline, and in limited cases, related aboveground equipment. With a few exceptions (building or planting trees atop the right of way), landowners may return to using their property after construction as they had prior to construction.
What is a right-of-way agreement?
A right-of-way agreement enables PennEast to build a portion of the Pipeline on a section of property. PennEast offers landowners financial compensation in exchange for granting a permanent right of way and temporary work space to be used during construction. Right-of-way agreements are individualized, and as much as possible, reflect a landowner’s property-specific preferences.
Does agreeing to survey demonstrate support for the pipeline or obligate a landowner to provide a right of way to PennEast?
Granting survey permission does not imply support or obligate a landowner to sign a right-of-way agreement. On-the-ground surveys are most significant in that they provide landowners an opportunity to share concerns and uniqueness about their property, though they are not the only manner in which PennEast will be able to assess potential impacts.
Information gained from on-the-ground surveys provides PennEast another resource to assess potential adverse impacts to environmental, geological and cultural resources; identify any potential risks to threatened and endangered species and to determine the suitability of the property for future use.
At times, surveying may involve simply walking the property and making observations; however, there occasionally may be a need to dig a small hole to obtain a soil sample. After the soil has been sifted and analyzed, it will be returned to the place from which it was taken. Granting survey access in no way implies the landowner supports, approves or disapproves of the PennEast Pipeline Project. It also does not have any correlation with a landowner’s right to choose to enter or not enter a right-of-way agreement with PennEast.
When will I know if my property is included in the final submitted route of the pipeline?
After more than a year of listening, learning and improving the Pipeline route to minimize impact on the community and environment, PennEast filed its proposed route September 24, 2015. In accordance with FERC regulations, PennEast sent a letter to landowners whose property could be involved directly with the proposed route. Land agents are working with the landowners to negotiate a fair agreement and compensation package. Landowners will retain ownership of their property.
Will the right-of-way agreement specifically mention and/or show where the Pipeline will be located on the property before construction begins and give the property owner a chance to make any changes if necessary?
Property exhibits will be generated for each landowner. PennEast has attempted to work with landowners to incorporate changes requested to the extent that they do not create safety and constructability concerns or increase environmental impacts. These requested variations are documented in PennEast’s FERC Application. Once FERC approves a route, though, PennEast has limited ability to make adjustments and will be required to confine construction activities to the approved work space.
Can PennEast use eminent domain on my property?
FERC-approved transmission pipeline projects carry an option that enables a company to access property to survey land and to construct and operate infrastructure; however, PennEast considers it a last resort that would be an exhaustive, socially and financially costly process for all involved. PennEast is committed to building relationships with landowners and other stakeholders and will make every reasonable effort to reach a fair compensation agreement with landowners.
If eminent domain is used, will I lose my home?
Landowners retain ownership of their home and property.
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How deep are pipelines placed underground?
PHMSA regulates natural gas pipeline safety, including the depth at which the pipeline must be placed. In normal soil conditions, the minimum required is three feet between the top of the pipeline and the land surface. Additional cover is provided at road and waterbody crossings. Where agricultural practices or other issues warrant additional cover, the pipeline will be placed deeper than three feet. Depth specifications will be incorporated into the right-of-way agreement.
How will you ensure the minimum depth restriction is met?
Independent, third-party inspectors hired by FERC will be on site, as will PennEast compliance inspectors, to monitor construction and placement. These inspectors, along with as-built data, will ensure the Pipeline is installed at the applicable depth. If a pipeline is installed that does not meet the minimum depth requirement, adjustments will be made prior to the construction contractor exiting the Project.
Will this pipeline be aboveground for any reason?
The PennEast Pipeline is an underground pipeline. The pipe will be visible only during construction as it is welded and prepared for installation. To help ensure the safe and reliable operations of the pipeline, there will be one aboveground compressor station, as well as valves, test stations (for cathodic protection) and meter stations along the line. A fence will be placed around the aboveground facilities. PennEast will work with landowners to develop appropriate screening plans to minimize the visual impact of above-ground facilities.
Should the pipeline route travel through difficult conditions, such as rock, how do you plan to address it?
If PennEast encounters such areas, PennEast would first attempt to use mechanical methods — such as excavation ripping — to remove bedrock. If other methods successfully cannot remove rock to the appropriate depth, PennEast will employ safe and commonly used blasting methods.
Today, the use of blasting is a very controlled and minimally impactful method to extract rock in many construction projects from single site development to linear projects, such as pipelines. Blasting is done in compliance with all applicable permits and regulations. PennEast will implement a project blasting plan that will provide specific procedures, safety measures and other required protocols that will be employed during blasting activities implemented by licensed and qualified contractors. Proper notifications to nearby landowners and businesses will be provided well in advance of any potential blasting. Additionally, PennEast will monitor vibrations at the closest structures to ensure compliance with applicable regulations.
How much land is involved during active construction?
In general, the temporary workspace will vary from 90 feet wide to 125 feet wide along the pipeline route, which includes the permanent right of way. The digging of the trench and installation of one section of line involves a work area that will vary in size depending on local factors, such as terrain; geology; waterways; roadways, and existing structures. While the typical width of the permanent right of way post-construction will be 50 feet, PennEast will only clear and maintain a corridor of 30 feet in wooded areas unless additional work or repairs are necessary.
Generally, what does the construction process entail?
More than one section might be under construction at one time. Field crews stay within the agreed-upon corridor, as specified by the individual right-of-way agreements and as approved by FERC and state regulatory agencies.
Initially, survey crews will stake the boundaries of the construction area. Crews will begin the construction process by clearing and grading the work area. Subsequently, additional crews will begin to string the pipe material along the right of way and begin digging the trench. At times, equipment is needed to shape the pipe to fit the route.
Welders will begin to weld the pipe. The pipe then is laid in the trench and backfilled. Before being placed into operation, the pipeline will be tested in accordance with pipeline safety regulations and well in excess of the proposed operating limits. Finally, restoration will begin in accordance with all applicable permits, regulations and best management practices.
When does construction begin?
Pending regulatory approval, PennEast anticipates beginning construction in 2017. In most cases, site preparation will not take place during the winter or critical migratory and nesting seasons.
How long does construction take?
Once PennEast obtains all necessary permits from various state and federal agencies, the construction phase is expected to last between seven months and one year. Construction is subject to many variables, including weather conditions, as well as availability of material and labor.
Who will be installing the pipeline?
Highly trained and qualified contractors will be chosen through a rigorous bidding process in which PennEast will assess each contractor’s qualifications; safety record; employee training procedures; health, safety and environmental (HSE) plans and overall commitment to safety and compliance. After the contracts have been awarded, third-party and government inspectors will be on site throughout the construction process to ensure compliance with permits, regulations and industry best practices.
How will PennEast properly restore the soil for future farming?
When the ROW is prepared for construction, topsoil will be stripped and placed on the non-working edge of the right of way. (No heavy equipment will be operated over this stripped topsoil.) Once construction is complete, the topsoil will be returned to the right of way and restored to the original grade. Farming activities can resume as they did before construction.
Proper restoration is required and monitored through the FERC process and state regulatory agencies. After construction, the right of way will be regraded, seeded and temporary erosion control devices installed in accordance with state laws, regulations and best management practices.
What if I have specific requests regarding restoration?
Landowners whose property could be involved with the proposed route are encouraged to talk directly and early with PennEast to share their preferences. Each request will be considered and documented accordingly in the final, individualized right-of-way agreement.
Whose responsibility is it to maintain the soil and vegetation on the right of way?
For the portions of the permanent right of way not farmed, PennEast will perform routine maintenance, such as mowing and tree clearing. Areas that wash, subside or are damaged due to natural causes will be maintained and repairs performed by PennEast. In areas where landowners use ATVs or other vehicles to cross the pipeline right of way or cause erosion by other means, it will be the responsibility of the landowner.
Can the right of way be used for recreation, business or residential use?
With few exceptions, land can be used just as it was before a pipeline was installed as long as no permanent structures are built or trees planted atop the right of way. Soon after completion of pipeline construction, PennEast’s environmental team will begin implementing best management practices to restore vegetation in the area.
What construction techniques will you use to ensure there is no degradation of the mandatory buffers near streams and waterbodies?
PennEast will employ best management practices during pipeline construction with the appropriate environmental controls in place. Additionally, all stream crossings must be approved by each state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Will you avoid building in areas that are considered critical natural resources areas?
PennEast is committed to protecting the environment and has implemented several route changes to either minimize impact on environmentally sensitive areas, or in some cases, avoid them altogether.
Once a landowner has signed a right-of-way agreement with PennEast, can it be used for other pipelines or future uses?
The right-of-way agreement is between the landowner and PennEast. Other companies interested in building a pipeline along the same property will need to reach a separate agreement with the landowner.
Does pipeline construction involve tearing down buildings or structures?
PennEast pursues all other options and routes before contemplating routes that intersect buildings or structures. Additionally, it is highly unusual the razing of any structure occurs without the approval, and often desire, of the landowner.
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What will be the operating pounds per square inch (psi) of this pipeline?
As currently contemplated, the maximum allowable operating pressure is approximately 1,480 psi.
In the event of a natural disaster, is your pipeline steel able to handle the stress of earthquakes of 2.0 or greater?
PennEast commissioned a detailed seismic hazard evaluation. This is included as Appendix O to PennEast’s FERC Application and summarized in Resource Report 6. The depth of seismic activity and the strength of the activity are important when considering risk on a pipeline. PennEast considered the results of the hazard analysis in the design of the Pipeline. Seismic hazard due to wave propagation effects should not propose any significant threat to the Pipeline.
How would the pipeline be constructed in areas with Karst geology?
PennEast is conducting studies in areas of the Project where known karst geology is present. These studies will allow PennEast to assess potential risks associated with karst geology prior to or during construction, PennEast will develop and implement measures to avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts on karst geology and groundwater as a result of project construction and operation.
Will the pipeline affect arsenic levels in groundwater?
The potential for specific and quantifiable increases in arsenic are not expected due to pipeline activities, though PennEast will test the groundwater before and after construction. In the extremely unlikely event that water quality is compromised, PennEast will take measures to provide replacement supplies until the situation is corrected.
PennEast will follow all Federal, state and local regulatory protocols related to trenching, construction and pipeline operations. PennEast also will adhere to all regulations and soil erosion and sediment control best management practices pertaining to capturing geological materials before they are washed from the work zone.
Additionally, the New Jersey Geological Survey evaluated concentrations of arsenic in groundwater in Hunterdon and Mercer counties during 1999 and 2000. Data from the 94 wells sampled showed that 30 percent of the sample wells exceeded the New Jersey maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 5 µg/L of arsenic.
Through New Jersey’s Private Well Testing Act, other data was collected from more than 1,100 wells in Hunterdon County and Hopewell Township. Data collected between September 2002 and January 2011 showed more than 25 percent exceeded the MCL, with a peak background concentration of 254 µg/L.
Elevated concentrations of arsenic have been observed in Hunterdon and Mercer counties. This makes it a challenge to correlate arsenic concentrations to the locations of interstate pipelines in these counties. Other construction developments and improvements — such as excavations for roadways; housing and commercial developments; sewer systems and water mains, and fertilizers for farmed areas — create a link of influence that makes it indistinguishable from arsenic levels in the region. Given the extreme majority of wells that contain elevated concentrations of arsenic are not located near the interstate pipelines in Hunterdon and Mercer counties, there is nothing that implicates pipeline or human activities add to regional arsenic mobilization.
Although the potential for arsenic mobilization is anticipated to be minimal, PennEast has proposed a first-of-its-kind laboratory study to evaluate what potential exists for arsenic mobilization during construction activities. Samples used for the study will be collected in areas where water supplies are drawn from the rock formations and are representative of the formations the pipeline will cross.
The study will evaluate the potential for arsenic release from the various rock formations with respect to construction conditions of the proposed pipeline.
Michael Serfes, PG, PhD, a regional expert in arsenic occurrence and mobilization, will lead the study. For 23 years, Dr. Serfes worked as a Research Scientist for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection/New Jersey Geological Survey, where he managed the Ambient Groundwater Quality Networks and investigated the sources, mobilization and transport of arsenic, lead and other trace elements and contaminants in groundwater. He will conduct the study using standardized and accepted rock-leach testing practices in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protocols.
The results of the study will provide scientific, not speculative, insight about the potential for arsenic mobilization to occur during excavation. If the results of the laboratory tests indicate excavation is likely to cause arsenic mobilization and quantifiably raise the concentration of arsenic in groundwater, PennEast will develop a mitigation plan for the specific areas of concern.
Through this study, PennEast will be taking steps that not only help plan for the proposed pipeline construction, but also advance best practices and overall knowledge related to prevention of arsenic mobilization, specifically as it pertains to construction involving the regional geological formations involved with the proposed pipeline.
If a pipeline runs from Pennsylvania into a neighboring state, does that open the door for hydraulic fracturing in an adjacent state?
Pipeline construction does not require hydraulic fracturing, a technique used safely for the last 65 years in the natural gas and oil extraction process. Many interstate pipelines cross Pennsylvania and deliver natural gas to surrounding states. A pipeline that originates in Pennsylvania has no effect on an adjacent state’s laws and regulations pertaining to natural gas extraction.
How can I learn more?
Visit FERC: http://www.ferc.gov, which evaluates whether interstate natural gas pipeline projects should be approved.
Visit the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Pipeline Hazardous Safety Materials Administration (PHSMA): http://phmsa.dot.gov/pipeline, which enforces regulations of the nation’s 2.6 million-mile pipeline transportation system.
If you have questions about the PennEast Pipeline Project, please send an e-mail to [email protected] or call toll-free (844) 347-7119.
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