Poconos Coal

New 100-mile pipeline planned through Lehigh Valley

Pipeline will carry natural gas from Marcellus Shale region to eastern Pa., western NJ

Proposed gas pipeline to go through Northampton, Bucks

WYOMISSING, Pa. - A new 100-mile pipeline will transport lower cost natural gas produced in the Marcellus Shale region to homes in eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey.

PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC, announced plans Tuesday to build the new pipeline that will go through the Lehigh Valley into Hunterdon and Mercer counties in New Jersey.

The PennEast pipeline will provide natural gas service to the equivalent of 4.7 million homes, and will offer savings to consumers in lower energy and gas transportation costs, according to company officials.

The proposed route for the pipeline begins in Luzerne County, northeast of Wilkes-Barre and ends at Transco's Trenton-Woodbury interconnection in New Jersey.

The pipeline would cut through Carbon and Northampton counties on its way to N.J.

"In response to the abundant supplies and low price of natural gas, customer demand has increased significantly," said John Walsh, president and CEO of UGI Corporation.

"This project serves to meet that growing demand in the mid-Atlantic marketplace, while providing greater system resiliency and reliability for local utilities."

PennEast officials say the seven-month construction of the pipeline will create 2,000  jobs, as well as many ofhter ancillary jobs.

PennEast will conduct preliminary engineering studies in the next few months, along with a formal application before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Construction could begin in 2017 if all local, state and federal approvals come in a timely manner.

PennEast is a joint project of AGL Resources, NJR Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of New Jersey Resources, South Jersey Industries and UGI Energy Services (UGIES), a subsidiary of UGI Corporation.

UGIES will operate the pipeline and serve as project manager for the project's development.

Dan Kunkle, the director of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, doesn't know the pipe's exact route but fears it will tear right through state forests.

"They don't go through housing developments with pipelines. They go through pristine areas usually," Kunkle said.

"One of the big problems is fragmentation...A lot of interior forest species are in decline because of fragmentation," he said.

Pennsylvania is the fastest growing natural gas producing state in the country, thanks to the discovery of the Marcellus Shale, but it hasn't come without a price.

Several weeks ago Pennsylvania's Auditor General issued a highly critical performance audit of the shale gas industry's oversight or lack thereof.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says the number of accidents involving pipelines is trending upwards but the consortium says it's still the safest and most reliable way to transport natural gas.

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