PennEast pipeline protestors gathered back in 2018 on the pedestrian bridge over the Delaware DC
PennEast pipeline protestors gathered back in 2018 on the pedestrian bridge over the Delaware River from Lumberville, Pa., to Raven Rock, N.J. PHOTO BY MEG MCGUIRE

PennEast pipeline says project’s development is “no longer supported”

| December 3, 2021

The PennEast Pipeline Company, which was behind a Pennsylvania-to-New Jersey natural gas pipeline plan, has told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that it has “ceased all further development” of the project, according to a letter it sent on Tuesday.

The letter, posted on commission’s website, was yet the latest signal that the company was pulling the plug on the controversial 118-mile pipeline project.

Quietly and without fanfare, PennEast announced in September that it was abandoning its seven-year battle to ship fracked Marcellus Shale gas from Pennsylvania across the Delaware River to New Jersey.

The month before that, the company announced an abrupt halt to legal proceedings to secure needed property easements needed for the project. At that time, PennEast characterized the move as merely a temporary pause and a “procedural step” while it cleared regulatory hurdles before resuming court cases to secure the approximately 70 properties it needed in Pennsylvania.

But for a while, the company has been transmitting signs of trouble about the project’s future.

Quarterly reports by the companies that make up the PennEast backers each shared similar language about how regulatory and legal challenges have clouded the start of construction and prompted them to declare multi-million-dollar write-offs in connection with the project.

The letter to FERC came in response to questions raised by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Homeowners Against Land Taking-PennEast (HALT), which opposed a motion to hold a lawsuit challenging FERC’s approval of the PennEast pipeline.

“In a Nov. 23, 2021, letter sent to the PennEast Pipeline company, noting that court filings had alerted the agency to conflicting statements about the expected future of the PennEast pipeline, FERC required the company to explain the status of the pipeline project within seven days,” the Riverkeeper said in a news release.

The riverkeeper said “conflicting statements” had been made by PennEast to the press and in other court proceedings, “leaving open the possibility that PennEast would try to continue to pursue construction of the Pennsylvania portion of the project.”

In its letter, PennEast said: “The PennEast member companies, following extensive evaluation and discussion, recently determined that further development of the project is no longer supported given the challenges in acquiring certain permits needed to construct the project, including a water quality certification and other wetlands permits under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act for the New Jersey portion of the Project. Accordingly, PennEast has ceased all further development of the Project.”

Though the company has made public pronouncements that the project was at an end, officials of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network said they believed it was not quite dead yet.

“Until FERC rescinds its certifications given to any and all aspects of the PennEast pipeline, including both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey portions of the project, this is not over,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware riverkeeper and leader of the Riverkeeper Network. “As easily as PennEast wrote FERC today to say the project was dead, they could write a letter changing their minds. To ensure the protection of our environment and communities, FERC must instantly void any and all approvals it has provided.”

A PennEast representative did not respond to an email on Thursday seeking comment about the FERC letter or other pending announcements about the project.

Chris Mele

Chris Mele

Chris Mele is a reporter and editor with more than 30 years of experience in news, specializing in investigative and enterprise reporting.

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