The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has again told PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC that its 24,000-page application for a water quality certification (WQC) and other key approvals is incomplete.
In a four-page letter sent to the company on Wednesday (Sept. 4), the agency said the project has not yet provided all the necessary information, or deficient material has been submitted preventing the application from being “administratively complete” to begin a broader review. The company was given 30 days to submit the necessary information or DEP could end its review of the project.
About two years ago, DEP said the same thing, asking PennEast for more information; it eventually closed the environmental review after it denied a request for more time to provide the data. At the time, the regulators determined that the application was incomplete mainly because of a lack of landowner permission to survey parts of the proposed route, which has since been finished. The setback led to project delays.
The 120-mile pipeline would move more than 1 Bcf/d of natural gas to markets in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. About one-third of the project would be in New Jersey’s Hunterdon and Mercer counties.
In the latest letter, DEP said PennEast must submit more fees, property deeds, a certified list of all landowners within 200 feet of the pipeline in certain townships, as well as additional information regarding historic sites along the route, among other things.
PennEast spokesperson Patricia Kornick said the company is reviewing the letter and plans to “move swiftly” to provide the data requested by the agency.
The project, certificated by FERC in 2018, has been in the works for about five years as it’s battled through delays. Early last month, when the company finally refiled for the water quality permits, sponsors said they planned to start construction next year, which is expected to take seven months.
“The approved PennEast route was designed with feedback from the DEP to minimize environmental impacts,” Kornick said. “The resulting successes include aligning nearly half the route with decades old power lines, reducing wetland impacts by half and decreasing the project footprint by 20%.”
Even still, the state has fought the project in court to block its access to public land and asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year to scrap the pipeline’s certification, which is one of several northeast infrastructure projects that has faced staunch opposition. As the state pursues more aggressive alternative energy goals under Gov. Phil Murphy, it recently denied a WQC application for the Northeast Supply Enhancement project.