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The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) on Wednesday closed its environmental review of the PennEast Pipeline, denying a request for more time to address deficiencies in the project's application for a freshwater wetlands permit and a federal water quality certification.
PennEast spokeswoman Patricia Kornick said the snag was not unexpected. After PennEast filed for the permits in April, DEP told sponsors the application was incomplete due in part to a lack of landowner permission to survey certain parts of the proposed route. At the time, the agency said PennEast had up to 60 days to submit the additional information requested.
"Given the complexity of the remaining deficient items, and the lack of demonstrated progress on the part of the applicant, it appears that it would be unlikely that an additional 60 days would allow substantial progress on the application," the agency wrote in a letter on Wednesday responding to PennEast's request for more time to address the deficiencies. DEP said the application is deemed "administratively closed," adding that the project would have to file for the permits again.
PennEast received a favorable final environmental impact statement from FERC earlier this year, but it is waiting for final approval from the Commission. Kornick said PennEast still expects a certificate order this summer. After that, she said the project would resubmit its permit application.
"PennEast originally filed its NJDEP permit application to ensure the project was consistent with the federal Natural Gas Act and the 90-day review schedule established by FERC under the Energy Policy Act of 2005," Kornick said. "The schedule requires all agencies to complete their environmental reviews and issuance of federal authorizations, including wetlands permits issued under delegated federal law."
Pennsylvania issued a water quality certification for PennEast in February. Kornick said 70% of landowners in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have granted the project survey permission. New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel hailed the DEP's decision as a victory for project opponents and a major setback for the pipeline, calling the application "worthless" and saying DEP did its job by denying PennEast more time to respond to the deficiencies.
The 120-mile greenfield pipeline would transport 1.11 million Dth/d of Marcellus Shale natural gas to markets in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The project is a joint venture owned by Southern Company (20%); New Jersey Resources' NJR Pipeline Co. (20%); SJI Midstream LLC (20%); UGI PennEast LLC (20%) and Enbridge Inc. (20%). It has a targeted in-service date for the second half of 2018.