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FERC to consider public need for PennEast pipeline


HOPEWELL TWP. - The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) yesterday announced that it will consider a motion for an evidentiary hearing on the PennEast pipeline application that was filed last month by the Eastern Environmental Law Clinic (EELC) on behalf of New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJ Conservation) and Stony Brook - Millstone Watershed Association (SBMWA).

The motion requested that FERC conduct an evidentiary hearing to assess whether there is substantial evidence of public need in New Jersey for the proposed PennEast pipeline.

"Gas industry experts have provided evidence indicating that New Jersey does not need the PennEast pipeline. It is encouraging that FERC has agreed to consider this valid challenge to PennEast's tenuous claim that there is market need for its proposed pipeline," said Jim Waltman, executive director, Stony Brook - Millstone Watershed Association.

The motion explained that PennEast is exercising a new form of market abuse that FERC can only assess by conducting an evidentiary hearing. The six owners of PennEast have contracted for 74 percent of the proposed pipeline's initial capacity. An analysis from national energy expert Skipping Stone concluded that PennEast can't rely on such non-arms-length contracts to demonstrate public need. Further, there is already 49.9 percent more firm pipeline capacity than is needed in New Jersey, even in the harsh "Polar Vortex" winter that the state experienced in 2013.

"Today's decision by FERC is a positive step forward, and a victory for pipeline opponents who have questioned the need for this pipeline. We hope that FERC will conduct a full investigation and find that this proposed pipeline is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist," said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, NJ Conservation.

EELC has requested that FERC hold an evidentiary hearing to provide the opportunity to:

- Test PennEast's underlying economic data and assumptions regarding public need; and
- Cross-examine PennEast's experts, models and economic claims to assess their credibility

"We are pleased that FERC has agreed to consider our request, and that it has ignored PennEast's latest attempt to quash any hearings. We look forward to demonstrating that PennEast's existing record fails to prove that its project would provide a significant public benefit. Its application glosses over the facts and weaves a tale that is not based on substantial evidence," said Jennifer Danis, senior staff attorney, EELC.

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