Upcoming Court Hearing to Review Williams' Proposed Expansion of Pennsylvania Pipeline

(P&GJ) — The subject of a state regulatory hearing being held on Oct. 5 is the proposed expansion of an existing natural gas pipeline from the Marcellus Shale production region in northeastern Pennsylvania into New Jersey.

In what is referred to as the Regional Energy Access Expansion Project, Williams suggests improving its Transco Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC line to provide a better connection between various locations where natural gas is delivered, Lehigh Valley Live reported.

“Regional Energy Access will help ease supply constraints affecting customers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, providing enough natural gas supply to serve approximately 3 million homes, the project is designed to increase natural gas transportation capacity by up to 829,400 dekatherms per day,” the Williams Companies Inc. said in a statement.

The project would involve building and operating: in Pennsylvania, about 22 miles of 30-inch-diameter lateral pipeline in Luzerne County and 14 miles of 42-inch-diameter loop pipeline in Monroe County, as well as modifications to existing compressor infrastructure in Luzerne, York, and Chester counties; and in New Jersey, a new compressor station in Gloucester County with compressor modifications made in Somerset and Middlesex counties, according to Transco's environmental impact statement it submitted to FERC in July.

Additionally, there will be ancillary facility upgrades and adjustments made to the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland pipeline tie-ins, valves, regulators, and meter and regulating stations.

A Chapter 102 (Erosion Control) permit application for earth disturbance activities in the counties of Luzerne, Monroe, Northampton, Bucks, and Chester is being reviewed by the DEP's Regional Permit Coordination Office, as are two Chapter 105 (Dam Safety and Waterway Management) permit applications for water obstructions and encroachments in the counties of Luzerne and Monroe.

Pending the approval of these permits, Transco plans to put the expansion into service in late 2024. The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection both need to approve the project.

“By generating energy in-state, this project will help meet growing regional demand for natural gas, as well as increase reliability and keep costs lower for millions of New Jersey and Pennsylvania homes and businesses,” Williams said, according to the article. “Current demand projections show that the region will reach a supply deficit of natural gas in the near future, and this project is designed to not only meet that demand, but to be adaptable, ensuring the region can meet its growing, changing needs for natural gas.

According to minutes from a November 2021 meeting, the existing pipeline right-of-way on property in Tunkhannock Township, Monroe County, will be expanded as part of the project's Pennsylvania segment on land owned by the water authority of Bethlehem for a fee of $120,524.

The pipeline being expanded in New Jersey runs through the counties of Warren and Hunterdon, with improvements being considered for Gloucester, Somerset, and Middlesex.

The proposal comes after a new natural gas pipeline that was supposed to run from the Marcellus Shale region, where hydraulic fracturing has helped make Pennsylvania the second-largest producer of the fossil fuel after Texas, into New Jersey was canceled. PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC, the natural gas company behind the earlier project, gave up on trying to move forward with construction when it became difficult to obtain the required permits.

Outside of regulatory hurdles, environmentalists have indicated their intention to oppose the Transco expansion. The nonprofit organization, Bucks County-based Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said it is letting people know about the October hearing for those who are "concerned about pipeline development, anti-degradation, high quality and exceptional value streams, climate change, fracking, riparian buffers, wetland degradation, deforestation, and endangered species protection."

According to the company, the estimated $800 million investment is expected to create 6,396 local union jobs with wages totaling $295 million, a projected $375 million increase in the region's gross domestic product, more than $17 million in state tax revenue, and more than $6.6 million in local tax revenue.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is hosting the online public hearing on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. Registration to attend the hearing is required through dep.pa.gov.

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