The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the PennEast Pipeline on Friday, April 7th. While it is not surprising that FERC would release the FEIS, it is disappointing.
We are disappointed that FERC did not heed the comments of its sister agencies to revise and re-issue a new draft EIS. In commenting on the draft EIS, the National Park Service observed that the draft EIS was released for comment “prematurely and without the information necessary.” The National Park Service called for a supplement draft EIS to be issued. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection also expressed concerns over the lack of information. It does not appear that the deficiencies were corrected in the final document. Instead, FERC recommends that PennEast completes the outstanding surveys, investigations, and plans prior to construction.
FERC finds that there will be adverse environmental impacts caused by the project but that those impacts can be reduced to less than significant levels. Fortunately for us, the FEIS is not the final word on whether PennEast can be constructed.
First, the FEIS is not an approval from FERC. FERC must still decide whether to issue the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. Before they can do that, there is a comment period on the FEIS. Individuals can obtain and review the FEIS on FERC’s website. People can comment to FERC on the FEIS.
Second, even if FERC issues a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, PennEast must apply for and receive approvals from additional agencies, including the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
We are reviewing the FEIS to determine what comments should be submitted. We also stand ready to challenge any permit application filed by PennEast with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The issuance of the FEIS, while unfortunately, is just another step in the process. It is not the end of the process.