In an effort to blunt widespread opposition to its project, PennEast Pipeline LLC yesterday released a study touting the economic benefits of its plans to build a new natural-gas pipeline from Luzerne County in Pennsylvania to parts of Hunterdon and Mercer counties in New Jersey.
The study by Drexel University and EcoSolutions, a private consulting firm, said the pipeline would increase disposable income from energy savings customers and businesses would reap by using cheaper natural gas to heat their homes and power electric plants from vast new supplies found in the Marcellus Shale formations in neighboring states.
The 110-mile pipeline, sponsored by all four gas utilities in New Jersey, is generating many protests from communities in the state, partly because its proposed route may go through preserved farmland or open spaces set aside with taxpayer dollars and partly because it would go through affluent communities.
Not only would the $1.2 billion project reduce energy bills, the study also claimed it would create more than 12,000 jobs.
“The total economic impact would be $1.6 billion over the duration of the project,’’ said Stephen Mullin, president of EcoSolutions. A spokeswoman for PennEast declined to say how much the company paid Drexel or EcoSolutions for the study.
“There is a compelling need for the PennEast project,’’ added Peter Terranova, chairman of the PennEast board of managers. “Over time, as the project is built, there will be significant natural gas moved into the region.’’ It is expected that the natural gas from the pipeline could serve up to 4.7 million homes in the region.
Opponents of the project disputed the view that it is necessary. With many new pipeline projects being proposed, some argue there could be a glut of natural gas in the region, especially if natural gas prices spike as they have done in the past.
Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, called the study nothing more than marketing spin. The study fails to include the impacts to agriculture, ecotourism, and recreation, she said.
“The PennEast economic report released today is just one more indication of the industry’s absence of the cumulative impact to the pipeline project,’’ said Lynda Farrell, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Coalition.
The project needs approval from various federal and state jurisdictions before it can move forward. A spokeswoman for PennEast said the company is hoping to have the pipeline in service by the end of 2017.