The PennEast pipeline is a natural gas pipeline being proposed by PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC. This company is a consortium of industry players that have gotten together to pool their resources for pipeline construction and subsequent operation.
The proposed pipeline is 36”, or three feet, in diameter. PennEast FAQ says the maximum operating pressure will be 1480 pounds per square inch, and will carry a billion cubic feet of gas a day. By way of comparison the entire state of NJ averages about 1.8 billion cubic feet of consumption per day across all classes of users (residential, electrical generation, industrial, transportation).
The pipeline will be over 100 miles long. It starts in Lucerne County, PA, runs south east across the state, just nipping Bucks County, and then passes into NJ where it traverses most of Hunterdon County, and then terminates in northern Mercer County in Pennington, NJ. The pipeline will be carrying gas obtained from the Marcellus Shale gas and oil fields in Pennsylvania via the controversial method known as “hydraulic fracturing” or “fracking” as it is more popularly known.
It will be constructed of steel, with individual sections welded together on-site. The “survey corridor” is 400 feet wide. The final construction area will require between 100′-125′ in width, and the easement at the end of construction will require 50 feet. The 50′ easement has to be kept permanently denuded of trees and shrubbery. The ditch will be approximately 8 feet deep. They’ll have to blast in many places because of the diabase nature of much of the Sourlands, including Goat Hill, Baldpate Moutain, Belle Mountain, etc.
If they go with the currently proposed route that co-locates along the JCP&L easement, they will be significantly widening the cut. They cannot put the pipeline under or immediately next to the electric wires, they have to place it a significant distance from them. Plus the construction right of the way must be on the other side of the pipeline ditch away from the electric lines. This means the entire cut on places such as Baldpate Mountain or near Swan Creek Reservoir will be enlarged from the current ~100 feet width to nearly 250 feet.
During actual construction they will require staging sites along the route to store material such as pipe section and heavy equipment. They may also need to build temporary road access points in remote areas along the route. The exact locations for those has not been disclosed.
The route runs very close to schools, such as West Amwell Elementary. Parks, such as Hewitt Park. Homes all along the route. It cuts through farmland, and runs through many category 1 streams.
It goes through legally permanently protected land including Open Spaces, Preserved Farmland, DEP preserved lands, and land trusts. It runs within a few hundred feet of reservoirs such as the Swan Creek reservoir, which provides drinking water to Lambertville. Nearly all of us in West Amwell rely on private wells for their water and private septic systems, and studies from experts have shown that those systems may be grave danger from the pipeline construction.
The pipeline is currently in what’s called “pre-approval” stage with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC is technically the sole authority that can give approval or not for this pipeline, but they must consult with other local, state, and federal agencies such as NJ DEP, the EPA, Fish and Wildlife, the Delaware River Basic Commission, etc.
Eminent Domain is in play with this pipeline if it is approved by the FERC. The “if” is important. If’ it’s not approved, the project dies. If it is, PennEast will be required to try to negotiate right-of-way easements for the pipeline route, both temporary ones 100′-125′ wide during construction, and permanent 50′ wide ones for when the pipeline is operational. If you cannot reach an agreement with PennEast then the government will take you to court with an eminent domain proceeding.
The pipeline will interconnect with several existing pipelines along the way. While PennEast says the gas is intended for NJ and PA use only, in fact the pipelines they are connected to can deliver gas up and down the eastern sea board, including the new Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) export facility being constructed in Cove Point, Maryland and a proposed facility in Maine called Downeast LNG. Cove Point is already 100% subscribed and will be shipping hundreds of billions of cubic feet of natural gas per year to India and Asia when it becomes operational.