PennEast submits application to build natural gas pipeline from Back Mountain to New Jersey

By Joe Dolinsky - [email protected]

PennEast is one step closer to constructing its bi-state, 118-mile natural gas pipeline.

The company, a consortium of six natural gas suppliers that includes UGI Energy Services, submitted Thursday its formal application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC), an independent agency that will review PennEast’s request to build, operate and own the pipeline, which originates in Luzerne County.

PennEast is seeking to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, a crucial compliance permit that grants private companies the power to provide public services.

Thursday’s submital was a “milestone” along the many stages of the $1 billion project’s nearly year-long pre-filing phase, which included a thorough evaluation period and several dozen alterations to the pipeline’s path, said Peter Terranova, chairman of the pipeline’s board of managers.

The latest variation altered the pipeline’s path near near Plains Township and Laflin Borough, moving the route north of East Saylor Avenue near Popple Construction’s Valley Stone Quarry. The adjustment was made to ease fears that blasting in the area could pose a safety risk, among other concerns shared by local stakeholders, pipeline officials said.

Terranova described the pipeline’s current route as “pretty decent” but noted there was still potential to tweak its ultimate path.

Originating in Luzerne County’s Back Mountain near Dallas High School, the 36-inch, underground pipeline is slated to cut through parts of Wyoming, Plains and Jenkins townships and Laflin before continuing southwest though Carbon, Northampton and Bucks counties.

The pipeline, which officials said will deliver approximately 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to customers in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, ends approximately 118 miles later in Mercer County, New Jersey.

“We put a lot of work into this route,” Terranova said Thursday in a conference call. “We made a number of adjustments. We know we’re not done.”

Far from done, too, is the backlash pipeline officials receive from property owners.

Acknowledging the defiance of landowners at “a number of properties” who refused to allow surveyors access to their land, Terranova said opportunities to collaborate and fine-tune the route are running out as project pushes forward.

“It’s urgent that people that didn’t let us on their property do so,” he said, adding that it was “premature” to discuss acquisition of land rights. Landowners would be given every opportunity reach a fair accommodation, he said.

Officials have met with over 700 landowners across more than 60 percent of the route, Terranova said. Many of the properties yet to be visited are in New Jersey.

Not to be understated was the pipeline’s affect on the state’s economy, said David Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturer’s Association.

“In every way that matters, energy is life,” Taylor said Thursday. “America’s high level of energy consumption, ever high and rising quality of life… I’ll never apologize for that. That’s what we want for our families and our communities.”

If PennEast is able to connect the region’s natural gas assets, Taylor said the price for the end user is less.

Meanwhile, pipeline officials will await FERC’s draft environmental impact statement, a collection of findings and recommendations derived from PennEast’s application. Another public comment period will follow before a final impact statement is released.

The pipeline is expected to be completed in 2018.

By Joe Dolinsky

[email protected]

Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL

Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL