- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey regulators on Wednesday closed an application for a more than $1 billion natural gas pipeline starting in Pennsylvania and ending in New Jersey.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said in a letter to PennEast that its request for a 60-day extension on a freshwater permit application was denied and the application was “administratively closed.”

PennEast showed a “lack of demonstrated progress” on part of its application, according to the letter, specifically obtaining landowners’ signatures for surveys.

The project is not dead, however.

PennEast spokeswoman Pat Kornick said the decision wasn’t a surprise, and that the company anticipates pending federal approval this summer.

Environmental groups opposed the 120-mile (193-kilometer) pipeline and hailed the development a “setback.”

“This is a victory against the pipeline because they have to start all over again and apply for new permits,” New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said.

Environmental groups say the pipeline could threaten pristine waterways, vulnerable animals and habitats, as well as scar the land.

PennEast says the project would create jobs and give the region a new energy source.

The project is also awaiting a determination from federal regulators on whether there’s a need for the project.

If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves the pipeline, the company could exercise eminent domain to gain access to properties for surveys, but Kornick said the company is committed to working with landowners instead.

Federal approval could be delayed because the commission lacks the quorum required for such approvals, but President Donald Trump has named commissioners awaiting Senate approval.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s final environmental impact study outlined several areas of concern, including trace amounts of arsenic in some rocks the pipeline would cross and potential threats to endangered and threatened species, including the bog turtle and Indiana bat.

But the report issued in April said PennEast is proposing mitigation efforts such as well monitoring and avoiding endangered animal habitats.

The pipeline would originate in Dallas, Pennsylvania, and end at near Pennington, New Jersey.

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