The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday issued a final environmental-impact statement for the contentious PennEast Pipeline, the $1 billion, 120-mile underground line that would deliver Marcellus Shale natural gas from Northeast Pennsylvania to the Lehigh Valley and New Jersey utilities.
The pipeline company, whose main sponsor is a subsidiary of King of Prussia-based UGI Corp., called approval of the environmental-impact statement “the last major federal regulatory hurdle” before FERC approves the project.
“Federal regulators have once again determined that PennEast Pipeline can deliver enormous benefits for the region, including lower electric and gas bills, thousands of jobs, enhanced reliability, and direct access to one of the most abundant and affordable supplies of clean-burning natural gas in all of North America — while doing so with little impact on the environment,” Dat Tran, the pipeline's board chair, said in a statement.
The project still needs stream-crossing permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and must undergo a review by the Delaware River Basin Commission. Pennsylvania regulators have approved water-quality permits.
Obtaining the state water-quality permits, required by Section 401 of the Federal Clean Water Act, has tripped up proposed pipelines in other states, such as the Constitution Pipeline project in New York. PennEast opponents are likely to focus their efforts next on the state review process.
“We vow to double our efforts to stop this pipeline from damaging our land, polluting our air and water, and putting our families at risk,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director of ReThink Energy NJ and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
The environmental-impact statement said construction would affect about 1,588 acres. After completion, about 788 acres would be affected, mostly by the pipeline's 50-foot-wide permanent easement, but also including 7 acres for access roads and 65 acres for above-ground facilities including a new compressor station in Carbon County. The remaining land disturbed during construction would be restored.
The statement downplayed the possibility that construction would unleash trace amounts of naturally occurring arsenic in the bedrock, a concern cited recently by some New Jersey elected officials.
It said that PennEast will be required to monitor water levels to check for arsenic contamination, and that in the “unlikely event” that construction affects drinking water, the company would be required to install treatment systems or “find an alternative water source.”