Mar 2019 Report To Stakeholders

MARCH REPORT TO CARBON COUNTY STAKEHOLDERS

By SAVE CARBON COUNTY

PennEast/UGI Pipeline Project- Prepared 4/1/2019

PennEast filed for important approvals with both the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) this month. The PADEP submittals were applications for Chapter 102 and 105 permits under the Clean Water Act and a request to be excused from the Riparian Buffer protections under PA law.  At the same time, PennEast submitted a request to FERC for Amendment Approval of the new pipeline route.  

You may recall that the pipeline crossing of the Appalachian Trail is proposed to be moved about 2 miles to the East to cross the Trail at an existing power line easement in Monroe County.  This change is less impactful for the Trail and was requested by the National Park Service.  The Amendment Approval Request also made 3 changes to the route to the South of the Blue Mountain and proposed to install “interconnect” equipment at a revised location at the Blue Mountain Ski Area.  Installing this equipment will mean that the ski resort will be able to access the pipeline gas for the purpose of making electricity.  They will use the electricity to power their snowmaking and to provide power to a planned water park and condos at the resort. The resort will be the only customer served by the pipeline in Carbon County.   PennEast argued that all of these changes made the pipeline less environmentally damaging. FERC did not agree and is now asking for scoping comments so that they can conduct an environmental assessment of the proposed changes.  Save Carbon County and others have argued that the proposed changes create even greater environmental harm and we will be asking for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Study (EIS) which is a broader study than the assessment.

Save Carbon County (SCC) and others argued (both to FERC and PADEP) that PennEast has ignored the possible presence of Bog Turtles within the Aquashicola watershed, and that the route change subjects the creek to additional major impact from erosion and silting.  We also argued that the Aquashicola should be provided more protection because this watershed is being considered for upgrade to a “special value” watershed.  

On the Riparian Buffer Waiver Request, SCC noted that the so-called mitigation measures were inadequate and their restoration plan for stream banks was unlikely to produce true restoration while the elimination of the shade canopy by tree removal would raise the temperature of the water making Class A streams unfit for trout and other game fish. 
SCC also noted that the pipeline plans made no provision for the containment of the Spotted Lanternfly. 
Save Carbon County is a member of a regional and two-state effort to stop the PennEast/UGI pipeline.  Local information can be found on FaceBook at “Stop the Fracking Pipeline.” Regional Information can be found on FaceBook at “Stop PennEast Pipeline.”

The Carbon County contingent to a DRBC Hearing. 

More Uncertainty for PennEast and FERC — March 20th 2019

More Uncertainty for PennEast and FERC

 Some good news! The Third Circuit Court of Appeals granted the State of New Jersey a partial stay, and expedited its appeal. This poses yet another problem for PennEast.

The State had asked the Court of Appeals to “stay” the cases where the State is a defendant until a decision was made. The Court of Appeals ruled that surveys and testing can proceed, but no construction is permitted pending the Court’s decision – this relates to state-owner properties, only. The order states — “…physical construction of the pipeline shall be stayed pending this appeal. Additionally, the just compensation portion of the litigation is stayed pending this appeal.”

Although this relates only to the 40-some state-owned properties on the route it aids all homeowners. While surveys and testing can continue, this partial stay will hamper PennEast from moving forward at full speed.  It also provides more reason for FERC to delay decisions because the route and outcome of the stay are unknown.

This court decision, along with the question of PennEast’s permissibility to cross the Appalachian Trail without congressional approval (reported in the most recent HALT newsletter), raises uncertainty for PennEast and FERC.HALT Member Meeting Next Week

HALT’s monthly meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 27, 2019, 7:30 pm at the Prallsville Mill. Updates and next steps will be discussed.

HALT Says FERC Lacks Jurisdiction to Amend PennEast’s Application; Pipeline Cannot Be Built Without an Act of Congress — March 18th 2019

HALT’s lawyer has sent a letter to FERC regarding PennEast’s request to amend its Certificate by altering the route in PA.
http://elibrary.FERC.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20190308-5200

It appears that Congress must pass legislation in order for a gas pipeline to cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (“Appalachian Trail”), which is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. In its Application to Amend its Certificate, PennEast filed a route change affecting where the proposed pipeline would cross the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. In its comment, HALT referred to the recent 4th Circuit Court decision that blocked the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from crossing the Appalachian Trail, even though the pipeline was going to be bored deep below the surface so that trees would not be cut.

In light of these legal developments, this makes crossing the Appalachian Trial by PennEast a national issue. It appears that FERC, the National Park Service, and state agencies cannot make this decision. It’s up to Congress to decide.

In addition, HALT states that the PennEast’s Application to Amend its Certificate cannot be granted by July 1, 2019, as PennEast requested. This is because HALT filed a petition for review in 2018 that challenges the validity of the certificate FERC issued to PennEast. Under the Natural Gas Act, the D.C. Circuit has to issue an order before FERC can amend PennEast’s certificate.

However, even if FERC prevails in court, the pipeline cannot be constructed unless Congress explicitly grants permission to PennEast for its pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail.

Feb 2019 Report To Stakeholders

HALT represents landowners throughout the PennEast route including Pennsylvania landowners.  The following is a monthly report on the pipeline project from Save Carbon County.  This group is a concerned citizens’ committee that is a Pennsylvania partner of HALT.

FEB. REPORT TO CARBON COUNTY STAKEHOLDERS

By SAVE CARBON COUNTY

PennEast/UGI Pipeline Project- Prepared 3/3/2019

According to a reports filed with the PA Dept. of State, pipeline companies have spent more than $37.7 million on lobbying our representatives in Harrisburg.  The largest amount by far was the $11.6 million spent by companies with an interest in the Mariner East pipeline project.

These expenditures cover the time period of August 2012 through July of 2018.

As of Feb. 19th, Pennsylvania is halting construction permits for natural gas pipelines operated by Texas-based Energy Transfer, LP.  Gov. Wolf announced that the company failed to respect the state’s laws and communities.  The company’s pipeline projects include two gas pipelines, the Mariner East 1 and Mariner East 2, and a natural gas liquids pipeline called Mariner East 2X.  Construction of these three pipelines has drawn blame for causing sinkholes and polluting drinking water. The company has been fined more than $13 million.

At least for a while, the PennEast company will not be able to conduct early tree-cutting prior to receiving all of the needed permits for the project.  Save Carbon County and others were concerned that if PennEast were given permission for early tree-cutting, trees would be cut along the pipeline route—even if PennEast ultimately failed to obtain permission to build the pipeline.  This has happened before in PA. The Constitution Pipeline clear-cut 28 miles of pipeline route in PA before the project was stopped by the State of New York. Even though the pipeline was stopped, the damage to PA was already done.  The next opportunity for tree cutting under the Migratory Birds Treaty begins on Nov. 1, 2019 and extends through March 2020.

The Pipeline Protest Bills continue to move through the PA Legislature.  These Bills, introduced by Sen. Scott Martin and Sen. Mike Regan, would turn peaceful protest at “critical infrastructure” sites (pipelines and fracking sites) into a 2nd degree felony on a par with sexual assault or aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.  A repeat offense would constitute a first degree felony on par with kidnapping, rape, and murder.  The intent of these Bills is to intimidate and deter potential protesters at pipeline and gas fracking sites.  Vandalism is already a crime in PA. These Bills would criminalize peaceful non-violent protests.

The State of New Jersey has taken a position opposed to fracking and fracking wastewater in the Delaware River Basin.  The State proposes to expand the current prohibitions against fracking well sites within the Basin to a ban on the import, treatment, and discharge of fracking wastewater as well.  The rules on fracking and fracking wastewater are under discussion at the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). New Jersey is one of four states that, with the Federal Government, make up the DRBC.

Save Carbon County is a member of a regional and two-state effort to stop the PennEast/UGI pipeline.  Local information can be found on FaceBook at “Stop the Fracking Pipeline.” Regional Information can be found on FaceBook at “Stop PennEast Pipeline.”

Please Intervene By March 8, 2019 — February 24th, 2019

Please Intervene again by March 8, 2019

FERC filed a Notice of Amended Application for PennEast and a new docket # CP19-78. Their notice, linked below, indicates a call for intervenors and comments by March 8.

Land owners should always intervene, even if you know what FERC’s going to do. We urge all HALT members to intervene in this matter. You do NOT have to be a directly impacted homeowner to intervene. Any indirectly impacted or concerned citizen is entitled to speak their voice and state why they are intervening. For instance Lambertville residents, although not on the route are impacted by the risks to the high risk dam the PennEast route goes right by.  Several members of the same household or family may intervene.

HALT has a petition for review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. To maintain standing as the case moves forward, HALT’s members should be involved in all aspects of this project.

If you are a landowner you should say:
I make this motion to intervene as an owner of land that would be directed impacted by the
PennEast pipeline project. No one else can represent my interests.

The CAPs developed instructions for previous and new interveners, below. Please feel free to distribute or use.

Instructions:

Homeowners Claim PennEast Official has Major Conflict of Interest — February 21st 2019

Sixty concerned residents of NJ, including many homeowners directly impacted by the proposed PennEast pipeline have submitted a formal letter of complaint to New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. They assert that Laurence Downes, CEO and Chairman of New Jersey Resources, a principle owner of PennEast, appears to have a significant conflict of interest given his official roles within the state of New Jersey while his company has a major proposal, the PennEast Pipeline proposal, before the state.

They cite that Mr. Downes has been appointed as Chairman of the Economic Development Authority which is worrisome because pipeline companies routinely tout the economic development that their projects will bring to a state or region as a reason for approving them. They go on to point out that Mr. Downes is also heading a committee to help finance the renovation of Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion. They claim these roles position Mr. Downes as an “insider” at the same time his company (NJR) must obtain two critical Clean Water Act permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) in order for it to be constructed.


Ros Westlake, from Delaware Township, New Jersey, one of the signers emphasized. “We are in no way alleging that any such favorable treatment has occurred (or will occur) from the administration, but the appearance of Mr. Downes possible conflict is glaring and disturbing.” TC and Joe Buchanan, other signers to the letter and owners of a small farm in Hunterdon County said, “We have been encouraged by Attorney General Grewal’s actions to protect NJ’s open space, as well as, the vigorous challenging of FERC’s flawed conditional approval of this unneeded pipeline and we want to make sure the light was shone on this obvious conflict of interest on the part of Mr. Downes.”

Michael Heffler, a homeowner from Lambertville, said, “It is only fair that we ask that Mr. Downes be required to step down from his role on the Economic Development Authority, the committee to renovate Drumthwacket, and any other prominent or influential role he holds in the State of New Jersey while his company’s applications are pending before state agencies”.

Various news outlets including Politico and TAPinto (Article) have reported on this homeowner action. In addition, several state and local political leaders have supported this action – the most recent being the Hunterdon County Board of Freeholders who have passed a resolution supporting HALT’s correspondence to the Attorney General on behalf of the homeowners. Freeholder Lanza noted that “the homeowners…are asking legitimate questions.” The Hunterdon County Board of Freeholders has also issued a press release. The PennEast proposal continues to receive strong opposition in spite of the fact the company was recently granted eminent domain by the US Federal Court, District of New Jersey.

Note:  Letter to the Attorney General & Hunterdon Freeholders resolution supporting HALT can be found on HALT’s website: https://haltpenneast.org