New Jersey Resources Corp. (NJR) has pulled the PennEast Pipeline from its financial growth projections through 2024, citing ongoing delays that have plagued the natural gas project.
“PennEast is an important project for the Northeast,” said NJR CEO Stephen Westhoven during the analyst day in late November. “But uncertainty around an in-service date requires us to take this action.” He noted that the company remains committed to the pipeline, adding that the project could eventually offer upside for cash flow if it does move forward.
Through subsidiary NJR Pipeline Co., the company holds a 20% stake in the project. PennEast is one of the last major Appalachian greenfield pipeline projects fighting for completion as the natural gas industry’s opponents step up their efforts to halt gas infrastructure with increasing success in the Northeast.
NJR subsidiary New Jersey Natural Gas Co. is among the project’s largest customers with 180 MMcf/d of capacity secured on the line. Capital expenditures, Westhoven said, would be “prudent and minimal” as the project works toward approval and construction.
While 90% of NJR’s future projected earnings are expected to be generated by utility New Jersey Natural Gas and subsidiary Clean Energy Ventures, Westhoven said the company was forced to exclude PennEast given the inability to “see exactly when construction and commercial operation would take place.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has resisted the project. As hurdles mounted, PennEast earlier this year laid out a plan to build the pipeline in two phases. Construction on the first 68 miles entirely within Pennsylvania is expected to start next year. The pipeline would originate at a point near shale fields in the northeastern part of the state to a terminus in Northampton County. The second phase would include the remaining route that would stretch into New Jersey.
NJR Midstream Vice President John Bremner said final plans for the second phase of construction are “to be determined” pending the outcome of PennEast’s petition for a U.S. Supreme Court review.
PennEast petitioned the court earlier this year to review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s ruling that a FERC certificate issued under the Natural Gas Act does not allow a private company to use eminent domain to seize state-owned land. The circuit court’s decision has prevented PennEast from condemning 42 parcels in New Jersey that it needs to move forward.
The U.S. Supreme Court has asked the Solicitor General to weigh in on PennEast’s battle to seize the state-owned land in New Jersey, which has delayed the high court’s decision to take the case.
PennEast obtained Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval for the project in January 2018 and sued the state to condemn the land. New Jersey sought to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction.
About one-third of PennEast would be built in New Jersey’s Hunterdon and Mercer counties. It’s been in the works for roughly five years and has battled New Jersey at other turns, where it has also yet to secure key regulatory approvals. The system would move more than 1 Bcf/d of Appalachian natural gas into New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania.
The pipeline’s other owners include Southern Company (20%); SJI Midstream LLC (20%), UGI Energy Services (20%) and Enbridge Inc. (10%).
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