Submit Comments to FERC on PennEast's Amended Application
PennEast Is Trying To Force Its Project Through At All Costs!
Submit Your Comments to FERC Today
We Cannot Let Them Subvert the Process, the Law & Our Rights
Deadline for Scoping Comments: March 30, 2020 @ 5:00 pm.
Instructions to comment, as well as helpful talking points, below.
The PennEast Pipeline Company has submitted a new application to FERC that needs your comment and opposition.
PennEast is trying to amend their FERC certificate so they can push their pipeline project through in two “phases” – an obvious effort to prevent regulatory agencies from denying outstanding permits and approvals until it is too late. Comment today to make clear to FERC that we’re still paying attention and will fight this attempted workaround!
FERC has just released a notice of its intent to prepare and Environmental Assessment for the project modifications, and is taking scoping comments on the proposal and its potential environmental and community impacts until March 30 at 5:00 pm.
Since PennEast received FERC approval on January 19, 2018 for its 116-mile fracked gas pipeline, proposed to cut through communities and watersheds in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the company has faced serious hurdles, losses, and denials from the courts, state regulators, and the public. On September 10, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit determined that PennEast does not have the right to exercise eminent domain over land parcels in which the state of New Jersey had property interests and was refusing access because of the state’s sovereign immunity under the Constitution. On October 8, 2019, NJDEP notified PennEast that its “Application is denied … and as a result, no application for a Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit and Water Quality Certificate is currently pending in any form before NJDEP.” Additionally, PennEast has not received a docket from the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), which is required before any construction (including tree felling) is started in PA or NJ.
As a work around, PennEast is proposing to advance construction in 2 phases:
- Phase 1, which PennEast hopes to construct while it “pursues the necessary authorizations to construct the certificated facilities in New Jersey,” consists of the first 68 miles of the pipeline in PA, from Luzerne County to Northampton County, as well the new Church Road Interconnects.
- Phase 2 would consist of the construction and operation of the Pipeline from the Church Road Interconnects in Bethlehem, PA through Mercer County, NJ, as well as the third compressor at the Kidder Compressor Station.
PennEast insists that Phase 1 and Phase 2 are “independent” of each other, and that Phase 1 is “a stand-alone project” that will be constructed and operated regardless of whether Phase 2 is ever approved or constructed. At the same time, PennEast urging to amend their previously approved project that would allow it to move forward in the two proposed stages. PennEast can’t have it both ways—either the projects are truly independent, in which case PennEast is proposing an entirely new project which requires a new application and review process, or they are proposing to split their existing project into two parts and begin construction despite being denied, or missing, essential legal approvals.
Segmentation of a single project into smaller pieces in order to avoid complete review and permitting is illegal and a clear subversion of the law and the rights of those that will be devastatingly harmed by this pipeline.
In light of NJ’s denial of access to public lands, as upheld by the courts, the project simply cannot be built as originally approved by FERC. At the same time, FERC cannot legally allow PennEast to segment the project and to proceed without required state Clean Water Act and DRBC approvals.
PennEast should not be allowed to have its cake and eat it too—FERC must be clear, this is either an entirely new Project or it is just a repackaging of the PennEast Pipeline Project that has been legally blocked, denied essential approvals and cannot be allowed to proceed.
You can find helpful talking points for expressing your opposition here.
How to submit: There are three methods you can use to submit your comments to FERC. However you file, be sure to reference the PennEast Pipeline Project docket number (CP20-47-000; you can also include PennEast’s previous docket nos. CP19-78-000 and CP15-558-000) with your submission:
- You can file brief, text-only comments electronically using the eComment feature on www.ferc.gov, under the link to Documents and Filings.
- You can file longer comments or attach comments in other formats electronically by using the eFiling feature on www.ferc.gov, under the link to Documents and Filings. New eFiling users must first create an account by clicking on “eRegister.” Select “Comment on a Filing” as the filing type.
- You can file a paper copy of your comments by mailing them to the following address:
Ms. Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20426
For assistance with electronic filing, call (866) 208-3676 or email FercOnlineSupport@ferc.gov
Talking Points: Feel free to cut and paste any of the text in the talking points below (or from the description above) in crafting your personal comment:
FERC must extend the comment period by 90 days. A mere 3 weeks (from the February 12 Notice until March 4 at 5 pm) is not enough notice and time for the public to file motions to intervene, and the 30 days provided for scoping comments is not enough for the public to review and meaningfully comment on this substantial proposal and the associated data and documents. PennEast’s application is 392 pages long. It is unclear from FERC’s notice whether there will be a further opportunity to comment. FERC must provide the public additional time to intervene and comment. I request a full 90 days be provided for the public to intervene, review and comment. I also request that public hearings that are accessible to impacted and interested communities be provided.
The Project is not Needed: The entire PennEast Pipeline Project does not have genuine market demand and is not needed or in the public interest, PennEast’s justification for Phase 1 is even more glaringly deficient. Phase 1 would have a capacity of 650,000 Dth/d, over half of the capacity for the entire project, but only 340,000 is currently contracted for. With just this fraction of the Phase 1 capacity under contract, PennEast’s claims that they have “secured customer commitments that support Phase 1 as a standalone project” is simply not true. What’s more, PennEast has refused to release its existing precedent agreements to the public for any meaningful examination of the project justification. It is clear that Phase 1 is not needed, and should not be considered in the public interest when the project’s harms are weighed against any purported benefit.
Phase 1 and Adelphia are connected and must be considered together. PennEast’s proposed Phase 1 includes delivery to the Adelphia Gateway Project, which received its FERC certificate on December 20, 2019. The Adelphia Gateway project includes the acquisition and conversion of 89-miles of pipeline from oil to natural gas, construction of two new pipeline laterals, two new compressor stations, meter stations, and other aboveground facilities. While FERC’s EA on PennEast’s 2019 Amendment included discussion of impacts relative to the “amended project modifications”, and PennEast’s application includes discussion of the impacts relative to the new Church Road Interconnects, PennEast and FERC have never considered the cumulative impacts of the entire PennEast Project and the Adelphia Gateway Project, which we now know will have a clear connection and could be in construction at the same time. PennEast and Adelphia should be considered by FERC as part of the same interconnected project, and all cumulative impacts, including fracking induced upstream and climate change impacts downstream, must be addressed. It is illegal for FERC to segment the review of these two interconnected projects before it.
The new facilities would create substantial health and safety threats that are ignored in PennEast’s application. The Church Road Interconnects include a metering and regulation (M&R) station at the PennEast mainline with two separate interconnections and measurement facilities, connecting to Columbia Gas Transmission pipeline and the Adelphia Gateway Pipeline in Bethlehem Township. According to PennEast’s new application materials, operating these new facilities “would increase the operational emissions previously estimated for the Project” and would involve “several sources of air emissions” including combustion of natural gas, diesel engine exhaust, and “natural gas released from fugitive leaks and venting of the meters, regulator, valves, flanges, and other interconnection system components.”
While glaringly missing from PennEast’s application, a simple review of local maps reveals that the Church Road Interconnects lie within .75 miles of the Notre Dame High School and Farmersville Elementary School, as well as within hundreds of feet of several residences, a church, and a golf course (where people will be recreating outdoors).
M&R stations like the proposed Church Road Interconnects are known to release methane, Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide, Volatile Organic Compounds, Formaldehyde, Particulate Matter, Sulfur Dioxide, and Polychlorinated Biphenyls during operation, among others, through venting and blowdowns. The chemicals released during construction and operation of M&R facilities are linked to respiratory disease, brain lesions resulting in neurobehavioral abnormalities, cardiovascular disease, fetal and neonatal illness, pediatric allergies, ear/nose/throat and respiratory infections early in life, impaired lung development, asthma, bronchiolitis, exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, heart conduction disorders, coronary artery disease, and cancer. Children, pregnant women, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to these environmental toxins.
It is unacceptable that PennEast omitted these health impacts and its proximity to nearby communities from its application to FERC, and FERC cannot allow these facilities to be constructed in this vulnerable residential area.
The PennEast Pipeline requires DRBC review and a docket prior to any construction. Alarmingly, PennEast’s 2020 application to FERC includes no reference to the DRBC docket required prior to any construction on the project, including Phase 1. PennEast has also recently withdrawn it’s application pending before DRBC, and it appears that PennEast is attempting to evade DRBC review with its most recent proposal. As FERC has recognized in the past, proposals for the construction of interstate pipelines lines traversing the Delaware River Basin are oftentimes required to obtain the approval of the DRBC. DRBC’s authority and obligation under the Delaware River Basin Compact its Rules of Practice and Procedure make clear that PennEast Pipeline requires DRBC docket approval due to the significant disturbance of ground cover affecting water resources, among other triggers. FERC cannot allow PennEast to proceed with any portion of construction, including of Phase 1, without DRBC approval, and the Commission must make this clear to PennEast.
Environmental Impacts of the PennEast Pipeline: In addition to the talking points below, DRN has documented the many significant environmental and community impacts of the proposed PennEast Project over the years (see our DEIS comments HERE and our comments on their 2019 route modifications HERE). The impacts we’ve detailed in the comments are still impacts of PennEast’s new proposal.
For these reasons and others, FERC must deny PennEast’s 2020 Application.