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PennEast Joins Nexus, Urges Prompt Decision by FERC

PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC urged FERC Thursday to take prompt action on the project's certification, joining Nexus Gas Transmission LLC on the list of proposed natural gas pipelines looking to move forward now that the Commission has regained its quorum.

In a letter to the three sitting members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, two of whom were sworn in just this week, PennEast asked the Commission to "promptly" vote to approve the project, arguing that it "is critically important to satisfy the timing expectations" of its shippers "and to provide timely access to new incremental natural gas supplies for the major Northeastern energy markets that PennEast is designed to serve."

FERC announced Friday it will resume monthly open meetings in September, with its first meeting since January scheduled for 10 a.m. EDT on Sept. 20. The Commission doesn’t have to hold actions until the meeting. Now that it has a quorum, commissioners could vote notationally on individual items at any time.

The 1.1 Bcf/d, 120-mile PennEast project would connect Marcellus Shale production in northeastern Pennsylvania to markets in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and other states. The project is 90% subscribed under long-term transportation commitments, including contracts with gas and electric utilities and producers.

PennEast's request, filed Friday, follows a similar request submitted by Nexus earlier in the week [CP15-558]. Both PennEast and Nexus -- a major Appalachian takeaway project looking to deliver production out of the western Marcellus and the Utica Shale to Midwest markets -- were stuck in the logjam at FERC following the resignation in February by former FERC Chairman Norman Bay.

Bay's departure left FERC without a quorum, which it regained Thursday, when Commissioner Robert Powelson was sworn in, joining fellow Trump administration nominee Neil Chatterjee and Cheryl LaFleur, the lone holdover from the Obama era.

PennEast in early April received a favorable final environmental impact statement (FEIS), and like Nexus, would have been ripe for a federal authorization earlier had the Commission been able to vote on pipeline certificate applications.

PennEast said it "understands that the Commission has many...projects pending review at this time," but securing a certificate order "at the earliest possible time is critically important. While an order has been delayed following the issuance of the FEIS due to the lack of a quorum, PennEast believes that if the Commission issues the order promptly, PennEast may still have the ability to initiate the activities necessary to be ready to commence construction of its facilities and place the project in service within the timeframe needed by the project shippers.”

PennEast, like other Northeast pipeline projects aimed at relieving the region’s gas constraints, has had to contend with pushback from environmental groups and with an unfriendly regulatory environment at the state level. In late June, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection closed its review of the pipeline, denying a request for more time to address deficiencies in PennEast’s application for a freshwater wetlands permit and a federal water quality certification.

PennEast is jointly owned by NJR Pipeline Company; SJI Midstream; Southern Company Gas; Enbridge Inc. subsidiary Spectra Energy Partners; and UGI Energy Services. The developers have targeted an in-service date in the second half of 2018.

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