Opinion Piece by Tom Gilbert, For the Inquirer
Published May 19, 2021
It was newsworthy when South Jersey Industries announced a plan to eventually eliminate its greenhouse gas emissions. But there’s a hitch.
Last month, South Jersey Industries (SJI) — a utility company that serves 700,000 customers — announced that it plans to be carbon neutral by 2040. For proponents of clean energy like me, this should have been an exciting, encouraging development.
But there is a big fly in their clean energy ointment: the proposed PennEast gas pipeline.
Like other utility companies in New Jersey and across the nation, SJI knows that dirty fossil fuels are on the way out. Customers want safe, clean energy sources like wind and solar. Over the next several decades, those sources will replace natural gas and other fossil fuels.
So it was newsworthy when SJI announced a plan to reduce and eventually eliminate its emission of greenhouse gases that worsen the unsafe, unhealthy impacts of climate change.
But the company’s ongoing financial support of the proposed PennEast pipeline undermines the worthy goal they are embracing.
PennEast is a proposed 120-mile natural gas pipeline to transport gas from fracking sites in Eastern Pennsylvania across the Delaware River through towns in Hunterdon and Mercer Counties in New Jersey. SJI has an ownership stake in the project — which could cost roughly $1 billion — and would also be a customer, buying gas from the pipeline to service its own customers.
But according to the N.J. Rate Counsel, supply and demand requirements can be met through existing arrangements, even during extreme weather. In other words, PennEast is “a solution in search of a problem” — we don’t need an additional pipeline.
This project would also have detrimental impacts. According to a 2019 report by the Cadmus Group, prepared for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, it would result in increased emissions of harmful greenhouse gas. The PennEast pipeline could also contaminate public water systems and wells, and disrupt acres of land, resulting in an estimated $43 million loss in ecosystem services. The construction will disturb wildlife and their habitats, including areas critical for many species of birds. A 2017 analysis by Key-Log Economics said the pipeline may also reduce property values by tens of millions of dollars.
Residents from New Jersey municipalities in its path have spoken out opposing PennEast, backed up by elected officials from both parties. The state of New Jersey has blocked key easements on properties in which the state has an interest, including land preserved for conservation, agriculture, or recreation, which the PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC claims is illegal; the case has now reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments from both sides last month.
By positioning itself as a carbon-neutral company while continuing to support the PennEast pipeline, SJI is essentially going to the store to buy a nicotine patch and a carton of cigarettes. Are you serious about quitting, or not?
SJI wouldn’t be the first company wanting to have it both ways by planting one foot in the future while keeping the other in the past, and seeking an environmentally sensitive public image in the process. When a company misleads the public about its environmental practices, it’s called “greenwashing.”
It would be a lot easier to give SJI credit if the company would “come clean,” literally and figuratively. It’s hypocritical to seek praise for environmental initiatives while seeking to build an unneeded fossil gas pipeline that would increase harmful emissions, potentially damage private and public lands, and threaten critical water and wildlife resources. As laudable as the goal of being carbon neutral by 2040 is, it’s inconsistent with building an environmentally destructive fossil fuel pipeline that would be in operation well beyond that date.
If SJI wants to be a good corporate citizen and as green as its public relations campaign touts, it will give up its interest in the PennEast pipeline.
Tom Gilbert is the campaign director for ReThink Energy NJ, a nonprofit organization that supports a swift transition to clean, efficient, renewable energy.
Access the article from it’s original publication site: The Philadelphia Inquirer
APRIL REPORT TO CARBON COUNTY STAKEHOLDERS
By SAVE CARBON COUNTY
PennEast/UGI Pipeline Project- Prepared 4/30
A landmark United Nations report is expected to declare that
reducing emissions of methane, the main component of natural
gas, will be a critical step in achieving a near immediate
slowdown in the rate of global warming. The reason methane
reductions would be particularly effective in the short-term fight
against climate change is that while methane is an extremely potent
greenhouse gas, it is also relatively short-lived, lasting just a decade
or so in the atmosphere. That means cutting new methane emissions
today could more quickly help the world meet its midcentury targets
for fighting global warming. By contrast, carbon dioxide, the main
greenhouse gas, lasts for hundreds of years in the atmosphere. So,
while it remains critical to keep reducing carbon dioxide emissions
because they make up the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions,
it would take until the end of the century to see any climate effects
from these changes.
Furthermore, while reductions to carbon dioxide emissions would
require sweeping changes to the economy, methane reductions can be
achieved at little cost to the economy. A large part of the methane in
the atmosphere comes from leaks from oil and gas infrastructure. In
fact, recent studies have shown that the oil and gas industry play a
much larger part in putting methane into our atmosphere than was
previously thought. Fixing those leaks should pay for itself by
capturing gas that can then be sold. That potential means that
plugging leaks from wells, pipelines and compressors can be the
cheapest and fastest way to slow the impact of climate changing
emissions on our environment. The U.N. report also underscores how
reducing methane emissions may bring significant health benefits as
well. Pennsylvania is the second largest source of methane emissions
in the United States. A concerted effort at reduction here would make
a huge difference but the industry has opposed even moderate
proposals from the Wolf administration.
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.
We hope you are all keeping well. Please find a number of updates and important information below. Please take the time to read and note there are two specific actions we are asking of you at this time. We look forward to seeing you virtually during our April member’s meeting – details to follow.
1) Oral arguments to be heard on April 28th at 11am. You can listen live on http://www.cspan.org
2) All briefings and filings have now concluded.
3) A decision is expected sometime during June 2021. If you would like to access any of the filings regarding this case, they are available at the following https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docket/docketfiles/html/public/19-1039.html directly on the Supreme Court Website. They are sorted by date.
1) On February 18, 2021 FERC issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) regarding the Certification of Interstate Natural Gas Facilities, Docket PL18-1-000. This is a revival of an NOI from 2018. At that time, over 3,000 comments were received from stakeholders, but FERC took no action. Under its new Chairperson, Richard Glick, FERC is expanding its initial inquiry to reflect changes promulgated by executive orders, regulations and statutes, and to build on the existing record.
2) There is no need to resubmit comments from the 2018 docket. New information, suggestions and examples are the goal of this inquiry.
3) You can find potential comment points and instructions courtesy of NJCF via this link https://www.dropbox.com/s/hub6r9mbq9ceisq/FERC.Comment.Instructions.2021.pdf?dl=0 The deadline for comments on this docket is May 26th, 2021. We are specifically requesting that you file comments on this docket before the deadline.
4) FERC has launched an Office of Public Participation (OPP). More information on this Office and its launch process can be found here: https://www.ferc.gov/news-events/events/workshop-regarding-creation-office-public-participation-04162021. If you want to comment on this issue – the deadline is Friday, April 23rd. Instructions for filing can be found at the above link. This is a ‘nice to have’ request. The NOI request above is much more important.
5) FERC reform bills – currently there are a few pending bills in committee stage in both chambers of congress. Rep. Watson Coleman has introduced HR2115 with Rep. Malinowski and others as co-sponsors. Please contact your elected representatives (Senate and House) to encourage them to request the reform bills be taken up at the Committee level to advance.
6) As a reminder the PennEast Amended Certificate docket was removed from the January agenda and has not been rescheduled. Based upon comments by the commissioners, this may be held until the consolidated case in the 3rd Circuit is resolved. The consolidated case is held in abeyance until the resolution of the SCOTUS case.
Elected Officials Update:
1) Visits to homeowners. Rep. Malinowski visited 6 affected properties during the past two weeks. We took this opportunity to discuss a number of topics. An update will be shared during the April Member’s Meeting.
2) Letter to Biden Administration. Rep. Malinowski is planning to send a letter to the Biden Administration regarding the Solicitor General’s Brief, the treatment of landowners, and the lack of need for this project. Rep. Malinowski will be reaching out to the new EPA administration in Washington to bring them up to date on PennEast and request they focus on the critical environmental and related impacts
3) CAPs efforts to introduce Township Resolutions. Lambertville CAP committee is introducing a resolution at the next City Council meeting calling upon our elected officials (state and federal) to state their position on the pipeline and reaffirm their opposition. Draft language will be shared to all local CAPs to pursue within other townships and communities.
4) CAP Webinar. A Multi-CAP update zoom webinar was held on April 20th with Lambertville as the organizer and host. A recording of the session can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTdsKHR_1lI
PA DEP: No recent updates.
DRBC Update: Application is under review – no recent updates. Comments are still being accepted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The project page is https://www.nj.gov/drbc/programs/project/penneast.html.
NJ DEP: No current valid application submitted. No update.
VIRTUAL HALT MEMBER MEETING
MARCH 31 @ 7:30PM
HALT’s March Member’s Meeting will be held, Wednesday, March 31 at 7:30pm.
There are 2 ways to join the meeting.
Phone: Dial: +1 646 876 9923 ID: 873 0846 3299
Devices with camera and microphone (Laptop, smart phone, iPad, Chromebook, etc.) Depending on your device, you will need to download the zoom application (for free) prior to the meeting. Make sure that your camera and microphone are turned on in the zoom application. Once the zoom application is downloaded to join the meeting click on the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87308463299
In order to allow the meeting to start on time, we suggest that if you haven’t used zoom before that you download the app Wednesday morning. If you encounter any problems, this will give enough time to work through them. If you need assistance call HALT @ 609-483-5530.
LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING YOU ON MARCH 31 @ 7:30PM
FEB. REPORT TO CARBON COUNTY STAKEHOLDERS
By SAVE CARBON COUNTY
PennEast/UGI Pipeline Project- Prepared 3/1/2021
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of PennEast v. New Jersey.
This case will answer the question if a private company, such as PennEast, can
use eminent domain against a state. Briefs from PennEast are due today. The
case will be heard in April with a decision expected in June. If PennEast wins,
they will likely resume their original efforts to build a 118-mile pipeline to Trenton.
Landowners would have preferred that the lower court ruling stand.
There is congressional movement to reform FERC (Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission). Since over 99% of pipelines are approved by FERC,
homeowners have long believed that their concerns are not given due
consideration. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have introduced “The
Pipeline Fairness, Transparency, and Responsible Development Act of 2020.”
And Congressman Jeremy Raskin of Maryland is also working to introduce a
House version of FERC reform legislation. The reforms will address the unfair
treatment of landowners by FERC.
On Thursday Feb. 24th , The DRBC (Delaware River Basin Commission)
voted to adopt a permanent ban on fracking within the watershed. All four
state representatives voted for the ban. At the present, this ban will allow water
withdrawals for fracking and will allow treated fracking wastewater to be returned
to the river. However, the withdrawals and importations of wastewater are also
being reviewed by the Commission. A single fracking well pad can require up to
a million gallons of water for operation, so the withdrawal of water is an important
consideration for the industry.
This ban applies to the entire basin which drains 13,539 sq. miles, about half of
which is in Pennsylvania. The fracking ban would affect the Pocono region and
other northeastern counties that sit entirely or partly over Marcellus Shale
deposits. These counties are Carbon, Monroe, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike,
Schuylkill, and Wayne.
This decision does not affect the PennEast pipeline because the pipeline will
draw its gas from counties to our northwest. However, the willingness of the
Commission to take such sweeping action to protect the watershed is
encouraging to environmentalists and PennEast-impacted landowners.
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.”