Can This Controversial Pipeline Boost the Economy and Protect the Environment?

The Marcellus Shale is a deep repository of natural gas that runs through West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, that the energy industry has aggressively sought to drill. (Photo: Brett Carlsen/Reuters/Newscom)

It may seem like one of the smaller, less consequential clashes as environmental fights go, but the battle taking shape over a pipeline that would take natural gas from eastern Pennsylvania to the Trenton, N.J., area is fast becoming a proxy war for larger forces that could threaten the shale revolution on the East Coast and beyond.

The proposed PennEast pipeline would move natural gas from Dallas, Pa., in the Poconos, to Hopewell Township in Mercer County, N.J. Construction on the 36-inch-wide, 114-mile pipeline would begin in spring 2017 if the project can gain approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Five other pipelines now carry gas over roughly the same route—indeed, the proposed path for the PennEast project was altered so 50 percent of the pipeline could be co-located with existing rights of way, according to project officials.

But those other lines are operating at full capacity because of the dramatic growth of energy exploration in the Marcellus Shale region, which has made addition of another line necessary, project officials say.

Studies show the pipeline would produce economic benefits. According to a new study from Concentric Energy Advisors, New Jersey ratepayers would have saved $900 million last winter if the pipeline had …read more