PennEast: Minimizing Environmental Impacts

July 29, 2016

By Pat Kornick

In his recent column on the PennEast Pipeline, New Jersey Sierra Club President Jeff Tittel used much of the same unsubstantiated rhetoric on which the fringe group bases its activities to oppose natural gas development.

Only a few years ago the Sierra Club was an advocate of the environmental benefits of greater natural gas use. Its former national executive director spoke alongside a prominent natural gas producer promoting the fuel’s benefits.

The proposed PennEast Pipeline will deliver such benefits — low-cost, clean-burning natural gas to eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey families and businesses. It will strengthen American energy security by adding necessary new capacity and providing local communities increased reliability through use of a local, abundant energy resource.

The project achieved an important milestone when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently released its draft environmental impact statement.

Contrary to assertions by the Sierra Club, FERC concluded any environmental impacts of the pipeline would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of PennEast’s proposed mitigation measures and additional FERC recommendations.

FERC examined the potential impacts of geology, soils, water resources, wetlands, vegetation and wildlife, air quality, noise, and cumulative impacts. In nearly every category, FERC found the project would not have significant impacts, or that impacts would be effectively minimized — and that surface and groundwater impacts would be minimal.

PennEast’s highest priorities have been developing the project to maximize safety and minimize impacts. PennEast engaged in more than 250 meetings with landowners, public officials, residents and agencies. Those conversations led to implementing dozens of route variations.

PennEast’s contractors and employees of its member companies live and work in the Wyoming, Lehigh and Delaware Valley regions. Ensuring these beautiful areas are minimally disturbed is one of the reasons PennEast is locating 37 percent of the pipeline’s route adjacent to existing rights-of-way; monitoring the pipeline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; employing an anti-corrosion system; installing remotely controlled valves; and working closely with agricultural landowners.

Contrary to Tittel’s claim, more than 60 percent of property owners have provided survey permission, and that number grows weekly.

With respect to cumulative impacts, FERC found they would be effectively limited. FERC found 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.”

FERC evaluated whether existing or proposed natural gas pipeline systems could meet the same objectives as the PennEast 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.”

It’s not true that “thousands of acres” will be affected. While slightly over 1,600 acres will be involved during construction, more than half that land will be restored following construction and revert to its former use. The permanent project footprint will be 784 acres.

The pipeline will deliver one billion cubic feet of natural gas every day. That could fuel more than five 1,000-megawatt natural gas combined cycle power plants. Comparatively, a solar array spanning 285 square miles (that’s nearly all of Carbon County) — or a wind farm with 6,000 industrial-sized turbines —would be required to generate the equivalent of PennEast’s potential gas-fired electricity.

Natural gas, solar and wind all work together to produce electricity, and a diverse electric generation portfolio is important for a balanced grid. However, it’s essential to have reliable natural gas supplies to fuel our electric generators (and homes and businesses) when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

Readers may review FERC’s draft impact statement at Please learn the facts, including how the project will significantly shape a positive energy and economic future to benefit families and businesses for years to come.


PennEast will Have Minimal Impact on Land, Water