FERC on Friday issued a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the PennEast Pipeline, bringing the project one step closer to approval.
The FEIS came after nearly three years of review and input from various stakeholders. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff concluded that approval of the project would result "in some adverse environmental impacts" that could be reduced to "less than significant levels with the implementation of PennEast's proposed mitigation and the additional measures recommended" in the FEIS.
Earlier this year, the Commission said it needed more time to consider additional environmental information and pushed back the FEIS from Feb. 17 until Friday. With the impact statement in hand and the water quality certification required by the federal Clean Water Act that was issued by Pennsylvania in February, the project has cleared two major regulatory hurdles. But with only two of its five seats filled, the Commission still needs a quorum to issue the certificate of public convenience and necessity that would finally approve the pipeline, a FERC spokesperson said.
"PennEast supports an expeditious approval of qualified nominees to FERC and looks forward to receiving a favorable order from FERC commissioners," said PennEast spokeswoman Patricia Kornick. She added that the project still anticipates receiving its certificate in the next few months.
While work also still remains with state regulatory agencies in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Kornick said the FEIS is a "milestone" for the project, which has faced staunch opposition from environmental groups and others. In a routine step before the FEIS, PennEast applied for a freshwater wetlands impact permit in New Jersey on Thursday to satisfy Clean Water Act requirements.
The 120-mile greenfield pipeline would transport 1.11 million Dth/d of Marcellus Shale natural gas to markets in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It would originate in Luzerne County, PA, and terminate at Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co.'s interconnection in Mercer County, NJ. The project is 90% subscribed under long-term contracts with local gas utilities, power generators and other customers.
Despite the uncertainty that remains about filling FERC's vacant seats, the project's backers are still targeting an in-service date sometime in the second half of next year.
The project is owned by AGL Resources Inc. unit Red Oak Enterprise Holdings Inc. (20%); NJR Pipeline Co. (20%); SJI Midstream LLC (20%), and UGI PennEast LLC (20%). Spectra Energy Partners LP entered a deal last month to purchase PSEG Power LLC's 10% stake in the pipeline, which would boost Spectra's ownership to 20% if the deal closes this quarter as anticipated. PSEG would still remain a customer with a 125,000 Dth/d commitment.