Overview: FERC Final Environmental Impact Statement for PennEast Pipeline Project

April 8, 2017

On Friday, April 7, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the PennEast Pipeline Project, finding it can be built while protecting the environment too. Three government regulators now agree the underground PennEast natural gas pipeline is safe for the environment, air, and our water.

That means PennEast Pipeline is on track to safely deliver enormous benefits for New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including:

PennEast Pipeline will be among the safest in the United States, with modern technology, independent inspections during construction, 24/7 monitoring throughout operation, and will meet or exceed every federal safety standard on the books. Federal data proves pipelines are the safest and most environmentally friendly way to move energy.

That’s why PennEast Pipeline is endorsed by leading business groups and building trades organizations throughout the region.

In its Final EIS, FERC concluded,

“Approval of the Project would result in some adverse environmental impacts; however, these impacts would be reduced to less than significant levels with the implementation of PennEast’s proposed mitigation and the additional measures recommended by staff in the final EIS.”

FERC evaluated the potential impacts of construction and operation of the Project on geology; soils; water resources; wetlands; aquatic resources; vegetation and wildlife; threatened, endangered, and special status species; land use, recreation, and visual resources; socioeconomics; cultural resources; air quality and noise; reliability and safety; cumulative impacts; as well as evaluated alternatives to the Project, including the no-action alternative, system alternatives, major route alternatives, minor route variations, and an alternative compressor station location.

Geology

“We conclude that with the implementation of PennEast’s proposed mitigation measures as well as its Blasting Plan, Karst Mitigation Plan, and E&SCP, and our recommendations, the Project related impact on geologically sensitive areas would be adequately minimized.”

Soils

“Based on our analysis, we conclude that potential impacts on soils would be avoided or effectively minimized or mitigated.”

Water Resources and Wetlands

Based on our analysis, we conclude that the Project would not significantly impact groundwater, surface water, or wetland quality or quantity during construction or operation with implementation of PennEast’s proposed mitigation measures as well as our recommendations.

Aquatic Resources

“With the implementation of these measures, as well as the requirements found in FERC’s Plan and Procedures, we conclude that overall impacts on aquatic resources would be adequately minimized.”

Vegetation and Wildlife

“With the implementation of these measures, as well as the requirements found in FERC’s Plan and Procedures, we conclude that overall impacts on vegetation and wildlife would be adequately minimized.”

Threatened, Endangered, and Special Status Species

“In general, we conclude that relying on state-level experts for the development of measures that would minimize impacts on state listed species and state species of concern would appropriately avoid or reduce impact on these species. As a result, we are recommending that PennEast continue to work with the state agencies on measures to avoid or minimize impacts on these state species.”

Land Use, Recreation, and Visual Resources

“We conclude that impacts of pipeline construction on planned residential and commercial developments would be minimized to less than significant levels.”

“Following construction, all affected agricultural land would be restored to preconstruction conditions to the extent possible, in accordance with PennEast’s E&SCP and Agricultural Impact Minimization Plan, and with any specific requirements identified by landowners or state or federal agencies with appropriate jurisdiction.”

“With implementation of PennEast’s proposed impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation plans, and our recommendations, we conclude that overall impacts on land use and visual resources would be adequately minimized.”

Cultural Resources

“The studies and impact avoidance, minimization, and measures proposed by PennEast, and our recommendation, would ensure that any adverse effects on cultural resources would be appropriately mitigated.”

Air Quality and Noise

“PennEast would be required to meet all federal and state air quality permitting requirements prior to construction and operation of the Project.”

“Therefore, we conclude that the Project would not result in significant air quality impacts.”

“Based on the analyses conducted, the proposed mitigation measures, and our recommendations, we concluded that construction and operation of the Project would not result in significant noise impacts on residents and the surrounding environment.”

Reliability and Safety

“We conclude that PennEast’s implementation of the above measures would ensure compliance with the DOT’s regulations regarding public safety and the integrity of the proposed facilities.”

Cumulative Impacts

“Some long-term cumulative benefits to the community would be realized from the increased tax revenues. Short-term cumulative benefits would also be realized through jobs, wages, and purchases of goods and materials.”

“There is also the potential, however, that the Project would 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.”

“We conclude that the cumulative impacts associated with the Project, when combined with other known or reasonably foreseeable projects, would be effectively limited.”

Alternatives Considered

“Our analysis of system alternatives included an evaluation of whether existing or proposed natural gas pipeline systems could meet PennEast’s objectives while offering an environmental advantage. 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.”

“We determined that an expansion of the existing Transco Leidy Line as an alternative would not be feasible due to densely populated areas along the line that would prevent looping. Expansion of the Transco Leidy Line would also not provide access to the delivery points proposed by PennEast. Other existing systems in the area of the Project would require significant expansions to meet the objectives of the Project, which would result in environmental impacts similar to or greater than the Project.”

“Consequently, there are no practicable existing or proposed system alternatives that are environmentally preferable to the Project.”

“We evaluated four major route alternatives to the proposed pipeline route, as well as three alternatives to avoid the Sourland Mountain region in New Jersey. Because none of these would offer major environmental advantages over the proposed pipeline route, we do not consider the route alternatives to be preferable to the proposed route.”

“During the Project review process we evaluated 101 route variations… Of the 101 variations, PennEast has incorporated 70 into the proposed route. We have reviewed the route variations incorporated into the proposed route and agree with PennEast’s conclusions regarding incorporation of the 70 route variations into the proposed route.”

“We evaluated one alternative site and one alternative access road location for the proposed Kidder Compressor Station and do not consider these alternatives to be preferable to the proposed site and access road location … We do not consider electric motor driven compressor units to be preferable to the proposed natural gas-fired compressor turbines.”

Conclusion

“We determined that construction and operation of the Project would result in some adverse environmental impacts, but impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of PennEast’s proposed and our recommended mitigation measures. This determination is based on a review of the information provided by PennEast and further developed from data requests; field investigations; scoping; literature research; alternatives analysis; and contacts with federal, state, and local agencies as well as Indian tribes and individual members of the public.”