Project sponsors have asked FERC for another two years to finish constructing the PennEast Pipeline, which has struggled to obtain regulatory approvals and permits.
When the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission certificated the pipeline in January 2018, PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC was given until Jan. 19, 2020 to finish the project and place it into service.
However, citing various regulatory hurdles that still remain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the company filed a request with the Commission asking to extend the deadline to Jan. 19, 2022.
The 1 Bcf/d project, which would supply more Appalachian natural gas to parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, has been in the works for about five years, as it battles through delays. New Jersey, where about one-third of the project would be sited in only two counties, has continued to resist the pipeline.
In its request for more time, PennEast cited various hurdles that remain. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has denied a water quality certification and other key permits for the pipeline.
DEP most recently cited a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that prevents PennEast from condemning state-owned land in New Jersey. The court concluded that the Eleventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bars a pipeline certificated by FERC from bringing an action in federal court under the Natural Gas Act to seize property a state owns.
Given the ruling, DEP said PennEast no longer has the legal authority to perform activities on more than 40 parcels of state-owned land along the project right-of-way. As a result, the agency said its water quality application cannot be deemed “administratively complete.”
After the Third Circuit denied the petition for rehearing, PennEast filed for a declaratory order at FERC to bypass the ruling; it also is preparing to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review.
PennEast in its extension request said it continues to pursue outstanding permits and clearance in Pennsylvania under the National Historic Preservation Act, which the company said are outstanding as a result of route modifications in response to landowner concerns.
“The project continues to be required by the public convenience and necessity for the reasons set forth in the certificate order, and postponement of the in-service date for the project will have no impact on the public interest findings underlying the certificate order,” PennEast said in its request. The sponsors remain “committed to constructing” the pipeline and placing it into “service as soon as possible.”
PennEast is a joint venture of Enbridge Inc., NJR Pipeline Co., SJI Midstream, Southern Co. Gas and UGI Energy Services.
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