The Back Mountain and Greater Wilkes-Barre chambers of commerce sent letters in support of the planned PennEast Pipeline to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission earlier this month.
The chambers’ support of the controversial pipeline project is rooted in fostering economic development and providing lower energy costs for families, said James V. Reino Jr., president of the Back Mountain Chamber.
PennEast Pipeline has a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity application pending approval from FERC this summer.
If FERC approves the application, PennEast will be able to use eminent domain to obtain property to install a 36-diameter pipeline that will start in Dallas Township and extend 114 miles to Hopewell Township, New Jersey.
The pipeline will transport up to 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily.
Both Reino and Wico Van Genderen, chief executive officer of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, said the letters of support were requested by PennEast Pipeline’s management team.
“After much deliberation, the (Greater Wilkes-Barre) Chamber has given its support to the PennEast Pipeline,” Van Genderen said. “But it must be developed safely and responsibly; it must respect the local property rights; it must be developed in full compliance with environmental protection regulations.”
The Back Mountain Chamber of Commerce executive board made the decision to support the pipeline project, citing benefits which include phasing out coal-fired electric generator facilities, which would reduce air pollution, Reino said.
“We need to look at the community as a whole,” Reino said. “Some people are for the pipeline and some are not. About five percent of the population voiced concerns against the pipeline. The vast majority of our members and community want to bring in jobs and lower energy prices.”
The letters, dated March 8 from the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber and March 11 from the Back Mountain Chamber, cited Northeastern Pennsylvania’s abundant natural gas supplies and a lack of infrastructure to transport the product to underserved regions.
“Regionally, natural gas has been increasingly used for electric generation and ‘Cogen’ projects like the one under construction at Mohegan Sun Casino (Plains Township). This technology provides cleaner burning electric generation, which has led to closings of coal facilities and has lowered air pollution conditions in our region according to the Environmental Protection Agency,” said the letter from the Back Mountain Chamber.
“Pipeline projects like PennEast will help relieve the bottleneck that has been created, allowing other businesses to enjoy the advantages of cleaner, abundant natural gas,” the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber’s letter said. “Our local businesses are taking advantage of this lower cost fuel source and, in return, can reinvest those savings back into operations, hire more employees and make their businesses more competitive.”