PennEast pipeline suffers another setback as DEP denies permits

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The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has denied PennEast’s latest permit applications for a roughly 116-mile-long natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania into New Jersey.

This month, the permits were denied after PennEast, on Aug. 8, had resubmitted the Freshwater Wetlands and Flood Hazard Area Permit applications to New Jersey regulators.

The new application was filed after the company completed land surveys that halted the project for a year.

PennEast had to prove that the proposed pipeline would comply with state regulations for flood hazards, storm water and endangered species, while also proving that water quality standards in New Jersey would not be violated.

The DEP officials said that PennEast had corrected deficiencies in the application in their resubmission but cited a federal appeals court decision in September as the reason for the permits denial.

“The NJDEP fully acknowledged in its rejection letter that PennEast had cured all items related to administrative completeness, but the DEP flagrantly flaunted its own rules by not issuing the administrative completeness determination,” said Patricia Kornick, PennEast’s spokesperson.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 10 decided that the company could not condemn state land to build part of its pipeline.

The decision reversed a lower court’s decision that allowed PennEast to condemn about 42 parcels of New Jersey state land.

The court stated under the 11th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the state is immune from condemnation lawsuits by private parties, including pipeline companies.

“In addition to missing the deadline established in its applicable rules, the DEP should understand that PennEast is a holder of a valid certificate issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); therefore under federal law, pending litigation has no bearing on the department’s continued review of the multi-permit application,” Kornick said.

The construction of the 116-mile-long natural gas pipeline is a $1 billion project from Pennsylvania into New Jersey. The pipeline’s construction would occur in the Hopewell area, while the New Jersey leg of the pipeline accounts for about one-third of the total project.

Company officials said the pipeline route in New Jersey largely aligns with decades-old power lines and roads to dramatically lower overall impacts. As a result, wetland impacts are reduced by nearly half, with a total project footprint reduced by more than 20%, according to officials.

Gov. Phil Murphy applauded the DEP’s decision in a tweet on Oct. 11.

“My administration fought and won in court to stop the proposed 116-mile Penn East natural gas pipeline. This week, the DEP denied and closed the application. We are committed to transitioning New Jersey to 100% clean energy by 2050,” his tweet read.

Murphy was joined by other state government officials who supported the state DEP’s decision.

“I am pleased that the state department of environmental protection rejected PennEast’s pipeline permits. We do not want and do not need this environmentally damaging, properly-value dropping nuisance in our backyards,” said Senator Kip Bateman in an issued statement. “Hey PennEast – stay off our land!”

PennEast officials said they are still committed to the proposed pipeline project even after this month’s decision by the DEP.