In a move hailed by environmentalists, the developers behind a controversial natural gas pipeline that would have spanned New Jersey and Pennsylvania are canceling the plans, saying they’ve been unable to get the necessary state permits to move forward.
In a Sept. 27 statement, PennEast Co. said that New Jersey was not going forward with the wetlands permits and water quality certifications needed under the state’s Clean Water Act. That’s despite the approval the project received from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and despite court victories for the rights to use public lands for the pipeline.
“[F]ollowing extensive evaluation and discussion, recently determined further development of the Project no longer is supported,” said PennEast spokesperson Patricia Kornick. “Accordingly, PennEast has ceased all further development of the project.”
PennEast’s member companies include several major players in the state’s energy industry, like New Jersey Resources and SJI Midstream, a subsidiary of the Atlantic City-based South Jersey Industries.
Proponents of natural gas contend that it’s a much cheaper fuel source for residents and businesses, and much cleaner than oil and coal-powered plants. But environmentalists warn that natural gas leaks can be devastating to the environment, while the process of harvesting the resources – known as hydraulic fracking – can contaminate local drinking water.
Officials from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection did not comment when reached by email.
Gov. Phil Murphy, in an afternoon statement, said the pipeline was “wrong for New Jersey,” and that it “would have destroyed acres of New Jersey’s conserved land and threatened species.”
“I welcome today’s decision by PennEast to cease development on this project and am committed to protecting our state’s natural resources and building a clean energy future that works for all New Jerseyans,” the governor added.
Meanwhile Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck, in a statement, panned the pipeline as harmful to “New Jersey’s residents, businesses, and fragile natural resources.”
Last week, the state and PennEast struck a deal that entailed the developers dropping plans to commandeer state-owned lands for the natural gas pipeline.
Under PennEast’s initial plans, it would have used eminent-domain to build the natural gas pipeline over 42 separate parcels of publicly owned land.
The pipeline would have traveled nearly 120 miles, carrying natural gas from the Marcellus Shale field in northeast Pennsylvania, going under the Delaware River through Hunterdon County and finishing at a terminal in Mercer County.
“We are pleased that after three years of litigation, PennEast has finally paused on trying to take state land,” reads a statement last week from Leland Moore, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office, who called the pipeline “unnecessary and ill-conceived.”
Jeff Tittel, the longtime head of the New Jersey Sierra Club environmental group, welcomed the Monday news, calling it a “major victory for the environment and the battle to reduce greenhouse gases.”
“After seven years of battle the people and the Delaware River have stopped this dangerous and unnecessary pipeline,” reads a statement from Tittel, who retired earlier this year.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:29 p.m. EST on Sept. 27, 2021, to include a statement from Gov. Phil Murphy.