Backers of the controversial PennEast Pipeline have switched gears and are now hoping to build the 116-mile natural gas pipeline in two stages: a 68-mile segment in Pennsylvania and a second section that would end in Hopewell Township in Mercer County.
On Jan. 30, the company filed amendments to the $1 billion project with a new strategy of initially building the pipeline in Pennsylvania, where they claim to have won approvals needed for construction. The company has set a target completion date of November 2021.
The company has said the second leg through New Jersey, which faces steeper legal and regulatory hurdles, would be completed by 2023.
“PennEast’s proposal to split the project into two is an acknowledgment of the tenacious opposition and high legal standards being applied in New Jersey. We don’t believe this new strategy will be successful,” said Jim Waltman, executive director of The Watershed Institute.
Earlier this month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) supported PennEast’s request for a two-year extension of its deadline to complete construction of the project despite objections from many environmental groups that the company waited until the “eleventh hour” to ask for an extension.
“When PennEast first proposed this unnecessary and damaging pipeline in 2014, it predicted the projected would be completed in 2017. The extraordinary opposition to this pipeline has blocked it so far and the request for an extension shows that the company knows the opposition isn’t going away,” Waltman said.
The company won an extension until March 4 to request a higher court review of a U.S. Court of Appeals decision that ruled the company could not use eminent domain over 40 state-owned lands. If the U.S. Supreme Court decides to review the case, a hearing could occur in the fall.