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Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur Statement
January 19, 2018
Docket No. CP15-558-000

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The PennEast Project

“In today’s order, the Commission authorizes the development of the PennEast Project, a natural gas pipeline from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania to Mercer County, New Jersey. I write separately to provide additional context regarding my conclusion that the PennEast Project is in the public interest.

“Deciding whether a project is in the public interest requires a careful balancing of the economic need for the project and its environmental impacts. 1 In applying this balancing test to the extensive record developed in this case, I am persuaded that on balance, the PennEast Project is in the public interest. PennEast has demonstrated that approximately 90 percent of the project’s capacity has been subscribed, primarily by state-regulated local distribution companies and owners of natural gas-fired electric generation facilities. I believe that under existing Commission precedent, this evidence of precedent agreements supports the determination that the project is needed.

“I have carefully considered the environmental impacts of the PennEast Project, and agree with the order’s determination that, while the Project will result in some adverse environmental impacts, the environmental conditions imposed in today’s order will ensure that such impacts are reduced to acceptable levels. I do share the concerns of my colleagues that the record reflects a significant number of environmental surveys that are incomplete due to lack of access to landowner property. I am persuaded, however, that Commission staff has developed a sufficient record to adequately evaluate the environmental impacts resulting from the PennEast Project. 2 Moreover, today’s order imposes a number of environmental conditions which are intended to specifically allow the Commission and Commission staff to carefully monitor PennEast’s ongoing compliance obligations, particularly related to the completion of those surveys, and any necessary avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures that may be needed.

“I strongly support Chairman McIntyre’s announcement that the Commission will undertake a generic proceeding to look broadly at our pipeline certificate policies. I believe this review should include both our needs determination and our environmental review of proposed projects. Today’s order highlights the issue of how pipeline developers engage with landowners, which I believe should also be explored in the upcoming generic proceeding. For now, I will continue to take a case-by-case approach to pipeline applications, carefully applying the existing law that governs our certificate process to the factual record developed in each case. In this case, that review led me to conclude that the proposed pipeline is in the public interest.

“For these reasons, I respectfully concur.”






                                               

    1 See Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, 161 FERC ¶ 61,042 (2017) (LaFleur, Comm’r, dissenting); Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, 161 FERC ¶ 61,043 (2017) (LaFleur, Comm’r, dissenting).
    2 The order explains that the Commission relied upon “PennEast’s application and supplements, as well as information developed through Commission staff’s data requests, field investigations, the scoping process, literature research, alternative analyses, and contacts with federal, state, and local agencies, as well as with individual members of the public.”
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