Bethlehem Press

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Feds release pipeline statement

Thursday, April 20, 2017 by CHRIS PARKER TNEDITOR@TNONLINE.COM in Local News

A proposed 118-mile natural gas pipeline that would snake through parts of Carbon, Luzerne and Northampton counties would “result in some adverse environmental impacts,” the federal government says.

But those impacts would be reduced to “less-than-significant levels” provided the pipeline company follows the government’s recommendations and its own proposed mitigation measures.

That’s the bottom line of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s final environmental impact statement of the PennEast Pipeline Project.

The next step, said FERC spokeswoman Celeste M. Miller, will be for FERC to review all of the information before making a final decision.

“The commission will consider the entire record, including the comments and final environmental impact statement, and then make a decision on the application,” she said.

It was unclear Friday how long that process will take.

FERC’s statement, released Friday, drew cheers from Penn East.

The final environmental impact statement “(validates) after nearly three years of scientific review and input from numerous stakeholders that the approximately 120-mile underground natural gas pipeline can be built with little impact on the environment,” the company said in a press release Friday.

The statement is the “last major federal regulatory hurdle for PennEast Pipeline prior to an anticipated favorable order from FERC commissioners that would result in approval of the project,” it said.

PennEast expects that order to come this summer.

The company’s plans call for the pipeline to run through Lower Towamensing, Towamensing, Kidder and Penn Forest townships in Carbon County.

The Kidder Township Zoning Hearing Board gave conditional approval to a special exception application for a compressor station in the township.

FERC is the second of two federal agencies to give the project an environmental green light.

In February, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which issued a water quality certification to the project.

The approvals, Dat Tran, chairman of PennEast’s Board of Managers said, “have affirmed that PennEast Pipeline’s construction and ongoing operations will not harm the environment, including waterways.”

Tran lauded his firm’s project.

“Federal regulators have once again determined that PennEast Pipeline can deliver enormous benefits for the region, including lower electric and gas bills, thousands of jobs, enhanced reliability, and direct access to one of the most abundant and affordable supplies of clean-burning natural gas in all of North America, while doing so with little impact on the environment,” he said. “The thorough review conducted by federal regulators assessed impacts on everything from safety to water resources to air quality and wildlife. Their finding is a clear win for the region, business competitiveness, economic growth and job creation.”

But Linda Christman, president of pipeline opposition group Save Carbon County, vowed to keeping fighting.

“(FERC) had so many mistakes and omissions in the original environmental impact statement. It was so lacking in key information that the Environmental Protection Agency recommended they issue a supplemental statement,” she said.

“I don’t imagine FERC has corrected the environmental impact statement in this final document. So, we’ll be going forward with bad decisions based on bad information.

“Just because they’ve issued this final environmental impact statement, this pipeline is still a long way from being built,” Christman said. “This fight is not over.”