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2 Marcellus pipeline projects move forward

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Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
A gas pipeline site cuts through land near Jobes Road in Delmont on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014.

Two large pipeline projects aimed at easing a glut of natural gas from the Marcellus shale advanced in the federal permitting process this week.

Houston-based Columbia Pipeline Group said its proposal to build the $2 billion, 165-mile Mountaineer Xpress in West Virginia entered a pre-filing phase before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Running from Marshall County to Wayne County on the state’s western border along the Ohio River, the pipeline would connect processing points and other lines, “providing producers in the Marcellus and Utica shale areas new transportation options to move gas out of the capacity-constrained supply basin and into the interstate market,” the company said.

Columbia has contacted landowners in the project’s path and, pending FERC approval, will start construction in the fall of 2017 with hopes of moving 2.7 billion cubic feet of gas per day a year later.

On the northeastern end of the Marcellus, a venture led by six midstream and utility companies applied to the FERC for permits to move ahead with construction of the PennEast Pipeline. The $1 billion, 118-mile system of 36-inch pipes would move gas from shale fields north of Wilkes Barre to New Jersey and the Philadelphia suburbs.

“New pipeline capacity like that of PennEast is the key to unlocking the competitive advantage of abundant Pennsylvania natural gas,” said David Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association.

A coalition of environmental groups opposed to natural gas development renewed its pledge to block the project, set to begin construction in 2017.

“If approved, the PennEast pipeline would impact hundreds of important water resources, thousands of residents, and lock our region into a future of fossil fuel dependence,” said Joseph Otis Minott, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council.

Industry leaders say such pipelines will deliver cheaper and cleaner-burning gas to areas where high demand and low supply have boosted energy prices. Within the gas-producing areas, a shortage of pipelines fosters a glut that has pushed prices down to multiyear lows.

FERC approval will involve environmental reviews as well as a determination of financial necessity.

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or [email protected].

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