Gibbstown Logistics Center - LNG & NGL exports proposed
Proposed LNG & NGL Export Facility, Repauno site, Gibbstown NJ: “Gibbstown Logistics Center”
Delaware River Partners, LLC is proposing to build a new deepwater port at 200 N. Repauno Avenue, in Gibbstown, Greenwich Township, Gloucester County, NJ on the Delaware River. Dubbed “Gibbstown Logistics Center”, the port would be located on the former Dupont explosives manufacturing site known as the Repauno Plant. The applicant wants to use the site to store and transport natural gas liquids that would be brought in by freight rail cars (rail exists on the site currently) from points west (including the Marcellus shale region in Pennsylvania), offloaded to tanks and an underground cavern located on site that was used for explosives by Dupont, and then shipped out through a new port located on the Delaware River federal navigation channel.
May 28, 2019, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network wrote a scathing letter to the federal and state regulatory agencies of the region for failing to disclose that Delaware River Partners was also seeking approval to use the site for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) exports. While obfuscating on the issue initially, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network's letter and press efforts resulted in the agencies finally publicly admitting the LNG goals for the site.
The site is under a cleanup order due to toxic contamination of groundwater from Dupont’s use of the property, shuttered about 20 years ago. The site was used for manufacturing and processing of highly dangerous materials and some of the chemicals used are still in the environment at dangerous levels, under a continuing order by NJDEP to pump and treat. This includes nitrobenzene, a highly toxic carcinogenic chemical and aniline, which is involved with the processing of benzene to make nitrobenzene. Toxic acids were also used in the nitrobenzene manufacturing process. Industrial diamond processing was also done and may have used chemical vapor deposition or other processes that are used to manufacture industrial and synthetic diamonds.
Many permits have been applied for by Delaware River Partners for the development of the Gibbstown Logistics Center. The company is also applying for and, in one instance has already received, site plan approvals from Greenwich Township for portions of the property to be used for warehouses and related activities. A copy of DRN’s letter to Greenwich Township Planning and Zoning Boards is below.
A group of residents organized in opposition to the project and appealed the municipal minor site plan approval: Concerned Citizens for the Redevelopment of the Repauno Site (CCRRS)
Copies of the comments submitted on the original NGL proposal can be found below.
As can the multiple and ongoing letters regarding the newsly exposed LNG export proposal for the site.
Numerous files were obtained by DRN through the Open Public Records Act in New Jersey and reviewed by DRN staff and consultants over several months. All records were also shared with colleague organizations and residents in New Jersey who are concerned about the development of the project.
Permits that were applied for to NJDEP include:
Permits that were applied for include:
- Coastal Wetlands permit 0807-16-0001.2-CSW160001 application 8/1/16 by CHEMOURS REPAUNO PLANT @ EI DUPONT DENEMOURS
- Individual Flood Hazard NJDEP # 0807-16-0001.2-FHA 160001
- FHA Verification NJDEP # 0807-16-0001.2-FHA 160002
- FWW 160001 FWIPW Individual permit
- FWW160002 WET Individual wetlands permit
- FWTW4R transition SAW redevelopment Special Activity Individual permit;
- IP Upland Individual permit/upland;
- NJDEP LOI # 0807‐16‐0001.1
- NJDEP Waterfront Development Individual Permit, Water Quality Certification comes with this permit
- NJDEP General Stormwater Permit
- Delaware River Basin Commission – original docket 2017, expansion docket for Dock 2 June 2019
- US Army Corps of Engineers
- Department of Energy
- US Coast Guard Letter of Recommendation
The exposure of the secret plan to export LNG from the Gibbstown Logistics Center resulted in a cascade of events and public outcry.
The Delaware River Basin Commission, despite strong opposition from the public, unanimously approved the permit for the Gibbstown Logistics Center on June 12, 2019. The vote was rushed through without any disclosure in the public notice that the terminal would handle LNG in addition to the other products at the terminal, which is currently under construction. DRBC hastily added a public hearing for the docket approval on June 6, where the DRBC verbally admitted LNG was a planned cargo. DRN’s comment to DRBC is provided below.
NJDEP had issued a Waterfront Development permit but had to rescind it on June 5 due to inadequate public notice. The draft permit also approved the Water Quality Certificate. Open for a brief 15 days of comment, which closed June 20, organizations submitted comment against the permit, which did not acknowledge or assess the LNG plans for the project. It is revealed in the application that New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is the “lead agency” for the project, providing proof that the state knew about the LNG plans in 2017 but did not disclose that publicly. Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s comment to NJDEP is provided below.
The “Letter of Intent” submitted by Delaware River Partners seeking approval by the Coast Guard for the export of LNG is now out of date as it only references one berth and the application approved by DRBC as well as other currently proposed permits regarding the project is for two new berths at the expanded dock. Also, the amounts of LNG (and natural gas liquids – known as “Liquefied Hazardous Gas”) contained in the application are no longer accurate because the capacity of shipping would greatly increase at the terminal if the two new berths (to be contained at an additional dock - Dock 2) are approved by New Jersey under a state Waterfront Development Permit. The NJ draft permit states that 37 shipping events per year would export the LNG and LHG overseas for sale. The “Letter of Intent” is provided below.
DRN has submitted comments on the expansion of the Gibbstown Logistics Center for what they call “Dock 2”. The second dock is proposed to have two ship berths, tripling the number of berths available for docking by ships. DRN has sent letters to the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard and all agencies that are considering permits, as discussed above. The letters are provided below.
EMPOWER NJ, a coalition of New Jersey organizations who are working for a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects and the development of clean., renewable energy sources has taken on the Gibbstown Logistics Center as one of the projects the coalition is fighting. Organizations from throughout the region, including Delaware and Pennsylvania, have joined the opposition to turning the Delaware River into an export port for LNG and are dedicated to fighting the Gibbstown Logistics Center.
A community public meeting will be held in Gibbstown at the public library on July 10, 2019 to share information and work with local residents and groups. See DRN’s calendar page and home page for the action alert and other action items regarding the project.
President Trump issued an Executive Order in April, 2019 for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to approve rail cars for LNG transport within 13 months. Two months later, PHMSA proposes a “Special Permit” for rail cars to carry LNG, with an environmental assessment that is open for public comment until July 8. The application was filed by Energy Transfer Solutions, a subsidiary of New Fortress Energy. The proposal to rail LNG is being driven by New Fortress Energy’s plans to export LNG overseas from Gibbstown Logistics Center. A sign-on letter prepared by Physicians for Social Responsibility is calling for another 90 days for public comment. This is being shared widely.
The PHMSA Docket with the proposed Special Permit and EA for the LNG by rail is here: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=PHMSA-2019-0100-0001
This rush to approval is not only reckless but also will launch a whole new highly dangerous means of transporting LNG over land to terminals that plan to export, where companies can get a lot more return for their buck, the public’s safety and the environment be damned. The new “market” means more pollution and destruction from increased fracking, more fracked gas processing plants like the LNG liquefaction plant New Fortress Energy wants to build in Wyalusing Twp., Bradford County, more greenhouse gas emissions and climate crises, more devastating health impacts from the shale gas frenzy and more communities exposed to the dangers of fire and explosion from derailments and accidents.
Also, an appropriations bill amendment was approved by U.S. House of Rep. on June 24 to block the Secretary of Transportation from approving the permit New Fortress wants for the LNG rail car approval. See https://www.freightwaves.com/news/us-house-votes-to-block-rail-tank-cars-of-lng
The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has proposed a new rulemaking that would allow Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to be carried in rail tank cars on the nation’s railways. The rulemaking is in direct response to an Executive Order by President Trump to make it legal to carry LNG by rail across the U.S., which is not allowed at this time. The proposal does not require specially designed tank cars to transport the highly flammable and super-cooled LNG but proposes to simply allow current DOT-113 cars to be used without any new safety testing or changes. There are many other problems with this reckless proposal that will endanger communities along train routes across the nation that are similar to the issues presented by the proposed Special Permit 20534 application made in PHMSA Docket 2019-0100. You can read DRN’s comment on that permit proposal here. That permit was requested by ETS Logistics company, New Fortress Energy’s subsidiary that is planning to build a processing plant for LNG in Wyalusing Twp., Bradford County, PA and rail the LNG to Gloucester County, NJ on the Delaware River where they are proposing to export it from the Gibbstown Logistics Center (hundreds of miles) overseas for sale. DRN issued an action alert with more info and submitted a comment against the rulemaking by the deadline of December 23, 2019. You can read the proposal and submit comment directly to PHMSA here. PHMSA extended the comment period deadline to Jan. 13, 2020.
PHMSA approved the Special Permit for New Fortress Energy’s subsidiary Energy Transport Solutions transport of LNG in rail cars from Wyalusing to Gibbstown in December 2019. The rail cars designed 50 years ago,
USDOT specification 113C120W tank cars, will be allowed without any design changes. There are no speed limits and the exact route is not disclosed. There are conditions in the permit that may require some time for the company to meet; the permit expires 11.30.2021. This approval will be the first use of rail cars to move LNG ever in the United States and basically use the people along the railway as guinea pigs since this is a new and untested mode of transport with no proof of safety.
DRN’s filed hearing request legally challenging the approval was accepted by a vote of the Commissioners of the DRBC. A Hearing will be set in the coming months. NJ Department of Environmental Protection approved the Waterfront Development Permit and the Water Quality Certificate for Dock 2 in September. Delaware Riverkeeper Network appealed the permit in October, court proceedings will occur over the coming months. Other permits and approvals are needed in order for the project to proceed.
Also, here is an update on the Gibbstown Logistics Center proposed export terminal, as of December 17, 2019:
Currently, the local community is opposing the truck traffic that is plaguing Gibbstown every day as the site is readied for the use of Dock 1. The small town of Gibbstown has backyards adjoining the Gibbstown Logistics Center property and the entrance to the facility is down a residential street that is plagued dawn to dusk by incessant construction truck traffic for the Dock 1 project for almost a year. EMPOWER NJ has held public forums about the proposed LNG terminal to inform the region of the project; the next forum is in February in Chester, PA. EMPOWER NJ is committed to opposing the project as a dangerous and polluting fossil fuel project that should not be approved by NJDEP, that violates clean and renewable energy goals and does not advance a green economy for the state.
FERC FOIA Appeal - DRN submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to get information about just what Delaware River Partners and New Fortress Energy were telling FERC about their plans for LNG export at the Gibbstown Logistics Center and to find out if they had received any approvals. After FERC denied DRN’s FOIA request, DRN filed an appeal in July 2019. In September 2019, FERC’s Office of General Counsel ruled in DRN’s favor. Documents secured by DRN from FERC as a result of this legal challenge show how the agency failed to: 1) provide meaningful review of its jurisdictional authority over the proposed Dock 2, instead relying only upon industry representations regarding the project, and 2) publicly disclose the information thereby avoiding public scrutiny or challenge of the determination. DRN posted the files on our website for public viewing (see below links) and shared them widely with the media. The public disclosure of this information has been important in our advocacy and advancing our challenges to the Dock 2 LNG export project. It exposes that New Fortress Energy worked behind closed doors with FERC to avoid their jurisdiction and public disclosure of their true plans. Between this and other efforts to avoid regulatory review, New Fortress Energy has basically escaped scrutiny of the full effects of its project and there has been no comprehensive analysis of the public safety and health impacts associated with the unique handling, transloading, and transport of LNG, a hazardous and flammable substance. No agency with direct LNG experience has been involved in the approvals for this project. And many have turned a blind eye to the peril which the public and the environment would be exposed.
Request for DRBC Hearing / Adjudicatory Hearing – The first approval given to GLC’s Dock 2 was the DRBC Docket approved in June 2019 (several more approvals are needed from other agencies). DRN submitted a Request for Hearing asking that DRBC reconsider its approval based on the potential negative impacts of the export terminal on Delaware River resources. The DRBC approved DRN’s Hearing Request unanimously, re-opening the docket decision and allowing DRN legal redress.
DRN’s attorneys participated in various legal proceedings in 2019-early 2020 that set the stage for the DRBC Hearing, defining the timeline, limits of issues to be covered by experts, engagement of a Hearing Officer and other issues. In March, DRBC announced that an adjudicatory hearing would be held on April 15, 2020, as part of DRN’s legal challenge to the DRBC approval of the GLC’s Dock 2. DRBC stated that the hearing would be open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis in terms of seating and that DRBC would re-open the public record for additional written comments, a stunning admission that the DRBC failed to provide a full or fair opportunity for public comment before approving the export facility. However, soon after this announcement, the coronavirus pandemic altered plans for public gatherings of any size. On April 15, DRBC announced that the hearing was rescheduled and would begin on May 11, 2020. The hearing would also be virtual and conducted remotely.
The adjudicatory hearing, DRN’s day in court, began at 9:00 am, Monday, May 11 via the Zoom virtual platform and concluded on Wednesday, May 20. DRN’s attorneys presented testimony from six experts from different fields to address how DRBC did not fulfill its legal obligations for a full and fair review of the proposed Dock 2 project and how this would result in substantial harm to the water resources of the Delaware River, including water quality, habitats, and protected species such as Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon. Because the hearing was not publicly viewable as the proceedings occurred, DRN staff observed the proceedings and shared live updates on Twitter and daily recaps on Facebook. Digital and audio recordings of the proceedings were posted at the end of each day or by the next day on DRBC’s website. After follow-up submissions by the attorneys and reviews by experts, the Hearing Officer is now in the process of writing his report, which will make recommendations regarding the Dock 2 approval.
The recommendation that comes out of the adjudicatory hearing will be voted on by the DRBC Commissioners – the Governors of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware and the Army Corps of Engineers - in the coming weeks or months. DRN attorneys have been advocating for the vote to occur prior to September 15, when the prohibition on construction in the river is lifted; from March 15 to Sept. 15, under the Army Corps of Engineers permit no disturbance or construction for Dock 2 can occur in the Delaware River to protect the federally endangered sturgeon. This protection was advocated for by DRN.
Public engagement grows - Since the hearing, DRN worked with partner organizations to draft a letter to the DRBC opposing the proposed LNG export terminal. This letter was signed by 126 diverse organizations representing hundreds of thousands of members from geographically broad regions and submitted to the DRBC Commissioners and staff. DRN and partners also announced the launch of a petition addressed to the DRBC that will be circulated throughout the summer for individuals to sign. Also being launched is a municipal resolution campaign focused on Pennsylvania and New Jersey communities where the LNG trucks and/or trains would travel; most communities are unaware of this looming threat. The goal of these campaign actions is too publicly influence the voting members of the DRBC – the Commissioners – to cancel their premature and rushed approval of the Dock 2 terminal that would export LNG. Public opinion has been fairly taken into account by DRBC Commissioners in the past and, once all the facts are revealed about the project to the Commissioners in the upcoming Hearing record and Hearing Officer’s report, and once the huge public opposition to the project is clearly demonstrated, the DRBC could withdraw their approval.
Raising public awareness - Public forums and webinars have occurred over the last months to raise awareness about the LNG export proposal and its implications from cradle to grave – from fracked shale gas wells that ruin the entire region and gravely harm peoples’ health and the dangerous liquefaction facility under construction in Wyalusing PA on the banks of the beautiful Susquehanna River, through the 200-mile truck and/or train transportation route to Gibbstown, NJ and then the enormous tanker ships that would travel down the Delaware River and estuary, past and very close to Delaware and South Jersey bayshore communities, overseas to foreign terminals.
The issues examined have included adverse environmental and water quality impacts, the unjust and substantial harm to public health and safety, particularly for minorities and low-income communities, the harm to special and irreplaceable habitats and species, and the massive release of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere from the cradle to grave life cycle of fracking and its infrastructure and operations. Natural gas is primarily methane, the most powerful of greenhouse gases in terms of heating the atmosphere on a 20-year time scale, the period of time when scientists insist we must be dramatically reducing these emissions in order to address the global climate crisis.
The Public Forums - In February, DRN worked with Widener University College of Arts, Sciences, and the Delaware Law School to present a public forum at the Widener University main campus in Chester, PA, with presentations by Professor Scott Bramer, Rev. Dr. Horace Strand of Chester Environmental Partnership, and LNG Coalition groups from EMPOWER NJ, the end fossil-fuel projects coalition. The proposed LNG export terminal is just across the River from Chester, an environmental justice community already heavily burdened with environmental pollution. DRN provided live streaming coverage of the forum, attended by a standing-room-only crowd.
In April, DRN organized with colleague organizations to testify at a virtual hearing held by NJ Dept. of Environmental Protection for a draft Air Quality Permit for the Gibbstown Logistics Center. In addition to Delaware Riverkeeper Network, verbal testimony was made by representatives of the major environmental organizations in New Jersey – NJ Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Environment New Jersey, Food and Water Action – and Clean Air Council‘s Philadelphia attorney.
In May, DRN was invited to represent the American campaign opposing New Fortress Energy’s LNG development plans on a webinar in Ireland with the theme of connecting struggles to succeed in the shared goal of stopping LNG export and import. A continuing alliance has resulted from that collaboration.
In June, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration made an announcement that they will be approving the proposal for any carrier to transport LNG by rail car anywhere in the United States. This rulemaking, championed by President Trump and his Executive Order last year for federal agencies to quickly get LNG on the nation’s railways for export markets overseas, is a reversal of the long-standing national ban on LNG transport by railcar, instituted because of the substantial safety issues of handling and transporting LNG. Only the Special Permit for LNG by rail to Gibbstown NJ allowed rail tank cars to be used to move LNG until this final rulemaking and that transport has not yet begun. The new regulation (RIN:2137-AF40) will take effect after it is published in the Federal Register. As of mid-July, the Notice has not been published in the Register and no Environment Assessment by PHMSA has been made public.
In June, DRN hosted a zoom forum “The Gibbstown Fracked Gas Export Terminal EXPOSED”, featuring Jeff Tittel of New Jersey Sierra Club, Doug O’Malley of Environment NJ and Jocelyn Sawyer of Food and Water Action, in addition to DRN. DRN introduced the interactive map commissioned from Fractracker to show the four potential transportation routes for the LNG trucks or trains and whom they would affect should there be an accident, derailment, or LNG release. Static maps of the likely routes have also been published. Also in June, Tracy Carluccio of DRN was the featured guest with Diana Dakey of Protect Northern PA on a webinar hosted by the PA Better Path Coalition. to discuss New Fortress Energy’s proposed Wyalusing to Gibbstown LNG scheme, cradle to grave.
In July, DRN kicked off its Summer Series of zoom forums on the project, zeroing in on: the interactive map that DRN published of the transportation routes, showing population impacts to those who live along the potential paths; and the LNG Coalition’s municipal resolution campaign for local governments along the transportation route. In August, the Summer Series will continue featuring the Ireland import terminal connection and the Puerto Rico resistance campaign to New Fortress Energy’s San Juan import terminal and additional webinars will examine other aspects of the complete supply chain of New Fortress Energy’s convoluted fracked gas development plans.
The allied Coalition working collaboratively - Groups from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York have grown the movement over the past year to stop the Gibbstown LNG Export Terminal in an allied coalition of organizations. This collaboration has brought together diverse organizations from many different geographic regions from throughout the LNG supply chain from cradle (fracked gas wells and LNG processing) to grave (end use burning of LNG overseas) reflecting the wide footprint of New Fortress Energy’s LNG project. With the firm resolution that working together from start to finish will expose the massive and destructive impacts of this project, should it be approved, we are allied in our goal of replacing this unsustainable and polluting export project with truly clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation on a global scale.
In late summer, the DRBC Hearing Officer issued his report based on the record that had been produced (the May 2020 adjudicatory Hearing, legal filings, expert reports, etc.) as a result of Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s appeal of the DRBC permit, called a “docket”. The report recommended that the DRBC uphold its earlier approval for the Dock 2 docket, which would be used for LNG export.
On September 9, the Delaware River Basin Commission, referring to the Hearing Officer John Kelly’s recommendation and report, passed a resolution to keep in abeyance the approval of the permit. The attorney for DRBC Ken Warren recommended they do so. New York introduced the resolution and the representatives for New York, New Jersey and Delaware voted for the delay, Pennsylvania abstained, and the federal representative from the Army Corps of Engineers voted no. The approved resolution delayed the decision on whether or not to approve the permit so the Commissioners could further assess the voluminous record and take a “careful look” at complex issues involved and, importantly, it enacted a stay on project construction until final permit decisions were made by the DRBC Commissioners with a public vote.
Prior to the September vote, public advocacy campaigns included a petition campaign throughout all four watershed states, led by organizations engaged in the broad coalition fighting the project. In September, more than 50,000 petition signatures were submitted to the DRBC Commissioners opposing their approval of the LNG Export Terminal. DRN also organized a local government resolution campaign that was carried out by groups all along the LNG transportation route from Wyalusing, PA where New Fortress energy plans to build the fracked gas liquefaction plant to Gibbstown, approximately 200 miles through hundreds of communities, exposing up to a million people to the danger of LNG transportation by trucks and rail cars.
The adopted local government resolutions were submitted to the DRBC in advance of the September meeting, to advise the Commissioners of the grass roots and “grass tops” opposition. A campaign sharing a sign-on letter with elected officials in opposition to the transportation of LNG through the Philadelphia region was submitted from officials in Philadelphia and another opposition letter from 133 diverse organizations from all over the Delaware River Watershed, updated with new names. Also submitted was a sign-on letter from 50 health professionals, scientists, and safety experts, as well as a formal statement from Lehigh County Commissioner Robert Elbich; Lehigh County adopted a resolution opposing the LNG transportation through their communities based on safety and environmental justice objections. These campaigns continued after the September DRBC vote to amass and relay the public’s opposition to the project in a storm of controversy that built to the December meeting of the DRBC.
Before the December 9 DRBC meeting, ccommunity, organizational, and local government opposition multiplied. The campaigns included another 49,730 petition signatures, totalling over 100,000 petitions by December 4 when they were submitted to the DRBC Commissioners. DRN and coalition partners including EMPOWER NJ, organized and carried out a Week of Action from November 30 through December 4 that resulted in thousands of declarations of public opposition expressed through various platforms such as emails, letters, tweets, Instagram messages, phone calls and faxes to the Commissioners. For example, Tweets sent to the Governors: 2,818 using #DRBCNOLNG in a Dec. 1 Twitter Storm: https://bit.ly/33HczrS. These declarations were generated by many organizations working together to oppose the project, including: 215 People’s Alliance, 350 Philadelphia, Berks Gas Truth, Better Path Coalition, Breathe Project, Bucks Environmental Action, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, EMPOWER NJ, Environment New Jersey, Food and Water Action, Food and Water Watch - NY and NJ, FracTracker, Friends of Sparta Mountain Associated with NJ Forest Watch, Friends of the Earth, Mark Ruffalo for Move.On, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Jersey Sierra Club, New Jersey Student Sustainability Coalition, Northwest Philly Climate Action Network, Not Here Not Anywhere - Ireland, PennEnvironment, Pennsylvanians Against Fracking, Philly Boricuas, Physicians for Social Responsibility, POWER, Protect Northern PA, Resistance Cafe, Safety Before LNG – Ireland, Sierra Club PA Chapter, Surfrider NJ, DE, and NY, and Waterspirit.
Sixteen local government resolutions were adopted in PA, NJ, and Delaware opposing the project and LNG’s dangerous and potentially catastrophic transport risks (by truck, rail, and ship), including Wilmington, Delaware, the most densely populated community in the state whose council members cited environmental justice objections. Resolutions in PA: Clarks Green Borough, Clarks Summit Borough, South Abington Township, Scranton City, Jessup Borough, Pittston Township, Lehigh County Board of Commissioners, Kutztown, Penndel Borough, Bucks County. Resolutions in NJ: Runnemede, Haddon Township, City of Burlington, Pennsauken Township. Resolutions in DE: Wilmington, Bellefonte. Additionally, two influential Delaware boards adopted resolutions: New Castle County Civic League and the League of Women Voters of Delaware.
27 elected officials from the Philadelphia region sent a letter to DRBC objecting to the perilous train transport through Philadelphia, disproportionately impacting black and brown and low-income neighborhoods: https://bit.ly/39HIfkp. The letter was sponsored by the community organization PhillyBoricuas whose members live in many of the neighborhoods along the railway tracks where the LNG rail tank cars would travel on route to Gibbstown. The community also is actively opposed because Puerto Rico is one of the destinations where New Fortress Energy is force-feeding the LNG from Gibbstown at an import terminal they own there; there is a groundswell of support for self-sustaining, independent and clean energy from renewable energy sources in Puerto Rico and people there are fighting New Fortress Energy’s import. Another letter from Philadelphia was submitted by Northwest Philly Climate Action Network, signed by an additional 31 local community groups in Philadelphia, demonstrating grass roots resistance: https://bit.ly/37C7n9O.
Going into the December 9 meeting of the DRBC, opposition to the export of LNG from the proposed Dock 2 at the Gibbstown terminal had quickly expanded as more communities learned of this reckless and dangerous project, its enormous footprint of potentially disastrous impacts on all four Delaware River watershed states, the runaway climate impacts of the additional greenhouse gas emissions that will exacerbate the climate crisis, and the catastrophic public health threats it thrusts on people, unjustly targeting black and brown people and low income communities where the trains and trucks would slice through.
In December, the DRBC voted to approve the terminal, despite the flood of public comments opposing the dangerous project. The representative from New York made a motion to further delay a decision while the issues of water quality and climate impacts from the project can be fully examined but it died for lack of a second. The final vote was unanimous except for New York abstaining. Outrage from the public was expressed during public comment at the meeting and afterwards, with a vow by organizations to continue to fight the project. Just before the vote on December 9 and afterwards, statements were made in the press by NJ Governor Phil Murphy that he voted for the dock at the terminal but did not support and would do what he could to prevent LNG from being exported from Dock 2. The EMPOWER NJ coalition, for which DRN serves on the steering committee, is following up with efforts to help Governor Murphy make his statements a reality.
DRN sued DRBC for their approval of Dock 2, the LNG export project, by filing a Complaint in federal court appealing this decision on January 25, 2021. See Complaint under “Supporting Documents” below.
Connections with partners such as Irish and Puerto Rican activists who are opposing New Fortress Energy’s import terminals that would receive the LNG from Gibbstown have led to even wider participation. In Ireland, Safety Before LNG and Not Here, Not Anywhere are sharing information about the proposed New Fortress Energy import terminal in Shannon and other proposed terminals there and we are participating and supporting each other’s’ efforts. In Puerto Rico, the Sierra Club Chapter and other local activists are opposing New Fortress Energy’s import terminal and their plans to expand and build another LNG export terminal on the southern coast of the island.
The Newly Emerged Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Issue
This part of the story starts in Puerto Rico, where New Fortress Energy has an LNG import terminal. On June 18, 2020, FERC issued an Order to Show Cause that directed New Fortress Energy to show why the “liquefied natural gas (LNG) handling facility it constructed adjacent to the San Juan Combined Cycle Power Plant at the Port of San Juan in Puerto Rico is not subject to the Commission’s jurisdiction under section 3 of the Natural Gas Act” (https://www.ferc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/C-4-061820.pdf). New Fortress Energy responded defending their decision not to seek a decision from FERC. New Fortress contended that the Puerto Rico terminal was exempt from FERC jurisdiction. The issue has not been officially resolved. However, it was brought up at the January 25, 2021 FERC public meeting and statements were made by FERC Commissioners, including the new chair Richard Glick, that FERC does have jurisdiction and New Fortress Energy must go through the FERC approval process. However, because the LNG is now being regasified and used for fuel at the power plant, the terminal, which is operational, was not shut down by FERC, unfortunately. A formal vote was not taken on FERC’s Order at this meeting.
This has had implications here at the proposed Gibbstown Terminal. Two dynamics are at play – first, Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s advocacy and legal action related to FERC in 2019 when DRN had to legally challenge our denial of files by FERC under the Freedom of Information Act, which opened up the issue of FERC jurisdiction and the lack of proper review of the proposed Gibbstown LNG project by the agency. DRN was seeking files that addressed FERC’s jurisdiction over the Gibbstown LNG terminal (see above entry and documents regarding this), appealed when we were denied records and won. DRN was then able to expose that FERC, Delaware River Partners and New Fortress Energy had made a deal behind closed doors at a secret meeting dating back to 2017, resulting in the company not pursuing the normal public process of requesting FERC to make a decision on jurisdiction. It appears they had avoided this to prevent the public from finding out what they were really planning back in 2017 (they had hidden from the public and even some agencies that they were planning to export LNG) and because DRP’s “modus operandi” is to avoid regulatory oversight and the scrutiny of environmental and safety analyses. Secondly, the Puerto Rico Order to Show Cause was likely a wakeup call to New Fortress that they should break down and go through the process to have FERC jurisdiction officially settled. The Puerto Rico Order was mentioned in the filing submitted by Delaware River Partners in its Petition for Declaratory Order Disclaiming Jurisdiction submitted to FERC on September 11, 2020.
In its Sept. 11 Petition regarding the Gibbstown facility, DRP asked FERC to ignore Congress’s command in the Natural Gas Act and look the other way while DRP and its affiliates transport natural gas in interstate commerce and export natural gas in foreign commerce without a certificate of public convenience and necessity, and contrary to the public interest. DRN and several other organizations filed Motions to Intervene and submitted comments and a “Protest” in opposition to DRP’s petition, saying that federal law requires FERC jurisdiction. DRN issued an action alert to spur public participation in the FERC docket process; individuals and organizations filed Motions to Intervene, showing broad public interest and controversy.
On September 18, New Fortress Energy subsidiary Bradford County Real Estate Partners (BCREP) filed a similar Petition with FERC to find the Wyalusing Township LNG plant project not subject to FERC jurisdiction. Many groups filed Motions to intervene and some groups, including Delaware Riverkeeper Network, submitted comments and a “Protest” opposing BCREP’s petition.
These FERC decisions are outstanding at this time and could have substantial impact on New Fortress Energy operations, including the future of the Gibbstown and Wyalusing LNG projects. See the FERC documents, Protests, and Comments submitted under “Supporting Documents” below.
Our advocacy campaigns, in coalition with many other groups in all 4 watershed states, have shifted to focus on other opportunities to affect permits, policies, and regulations that are relevant to the Gibbstown LNG project. A new petition with new “asks” is being developed and sign-on letters, a reworked municipal resolution campaign, and other on-the-ground efforts will continue to work alongside Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s legal challenges to the Gibbstown LNG Export Terminal.
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network as part of the "Philly Stop LNG by Rail Network" is launching a petition urging President Biden to cancel the plans to transport LNG by rail through Philadelphia. You can view the coalition's petition in English, and Spanish here.
Updated October 2021
Video of Philadelphia and Allentown Community Members re. LNG by Rail
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is also presenting a webinar series to cover various aspects of the Gibbstown LNG export project. You can view them online here:
- (2020-06-25) - The Gibbstown Fracked Gas Export Terminal Exposed
- Webinar 1 (2020-07-16) - Terror in Transit
- Webinar 2 (2020-07-23) - Adopting Local Government Resolutions Opposing LNG Transport Where You Live
- Webinar 3 (2020-08-06) -The Puerto Rico Connection: Fracked LNG from Gibbstown, NJ to San Juan, PR?
- Webinar 4 (2020-08-27) - The Ireland Connection: Fracked LNG from Gibbstown, NJ to Shannon, Ireland