Jim Willis on NGL Pipelines
Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)
[Editor’s Note: The PennEast Pipeline folks, like those behind the Constitution Pipeline, sadly decided to give up after winning huge legal cases. The project is dead for now.]
Score another victory for the forces of evil, by which we mean leftwing, wackadoodle anti-fossil fuel extremists. Just a short time ago MDN received the statement below from PennEast Pipeline that states, in our words, they’ve given up. Throwing in the towel. Dead. PennEast will not get built. You can’t say we didn’t warn you this may happen.
PennEast Pipeline, a 120-mile, primarily 36-inch pipeline that would have cost $1 billion to build and run from Dallas, Luzerne County, in northeastern Pennsylvania, and terminate at Transco’s pipeline interconnection near Pennington, Mercer County, New Jersey, won a huge and important victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in June (see PennEast Pipeline Squeaks Out 5-4 Supreme Court Victory Over NJ). The victory allows PennEast to use eminent domain to run the pipeline across property owned or controlled by the State of New Jersey. Yet last week PennEast notified a federal court it was withdrawing its eminent domain case against NJ for 42 properties the state either controls or owns (see Troubling: PennEast Pipeline Withdraws NJ Eminent Domain Lawsuits).
A month ago PennEast dropped its eminent domain cases against landowners in Pennsylvania, where the project was set to begin construction (see PennEast Stops Eminent Domain Lawsuits in PA – What Does it Mean?).
After both bits of news about pulling back eminent domain cases, we asked, “What the heck is going on?” We said we hoped the project would still get built, but we expressed our concerns and doubts. We were right to do so.
This morning we received the following statement from Patricia Kornick, spokesperson for PennEast:
Although PennEast received a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from FERC to construct the proposed pipeline and obtained some required permits, PennEast has not received certain permits, including a water quality certification and other wetlands permits under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act for the New Jersey portion of the Project; therefore, the PennEast partners, following extensive evaluation and discussion, recently determined further development of the Project no longer is supported. Accordingly, PennEast has ceased all further development of the Project.
We suppose “ceasing further development” could mean, in our wildest dreams, that someday development will resume. But we don’t think so. The PennEast project is dead, which makes us profoundly sad. We hate it when the bad guys win.
Editor’s Note: There are several lessons here for the pipeline industry and its supporters, as I see it. The PennEast situation, like the Constitution Pipeline debacle, proves the following:
- Incremental development is smarter than big new projects, particularly in the urban Northeast where ignorance abounds everywhere like an obnoxious invasive weed. The Kinder-Morgan approach is much more likely to succeed for now.
- Trade unions who depend on pipeline work must end their knee-jerk support of Democrats who have totally abandoned them in favor of big-money and trendy special interests. Democrats such as Phil Murphy (the second Goldman-Sachs Governor out of the last three) will invariably choose those special interests over labor when it comes to picking winners and losers. Until the trades say “no more,” there will be more Courruptocrats, more pander-bears such as Phil and more pipeline-killing decisions.
- There is no point in any attempt whatsoever to reason with or appease bureaucrats serving the interests of a Cuomo or a Murphy. It only leads to delays and provides more time for them to devise a strategy to kill the pipeline. Pipeline companies must go for the jugular at the very first opportunity with Federal lawsuits on every front. It’s war and it’s high time they realized it and acted accordingly. They must stop playing nice when the other side is working for tyrants. They must hire lawyers who “sue the bastards” for a living instead of those with experience in guiding one “through the process.” This is political hardball, not a game of Croquet.
- Pipeline companies must spend less money on fluff about economic benefits to the community, that are real but intangible for most part, and, instead, address the hard facts about what life without natural gas really means. Likewise, they need to stop undermining their own case by trying to make global warming arguments. Reducing methane emissions and documenting it for the regulators is very good, but one can’t play ball on the other team’s field under their special rules. Winning under those rules is impossible because they’re designed to entrap and kill opponents. Pipeline companies must talk about the alternatives, which are far worse, and will steal consumers blind.
Pipeline companies, in other words, must start playing for keeps. The PennEast and the Constitution were both excellent projects put forward by good companies and, ironically, both died immediately after winning big legal arguments. What this tells me is that both should have sued much earlier. There is no “Mr. Nice Guy” in the pipeline wars.
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