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DEP Rejects PennEast Pipeline Application as Deficient

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The DEP has rejected PennEast Pipeline’s application for water permits. This is a major setback because they have told PennEast that they do not have enough information for them to evaluate land use permits and their application is deficient. PennEast has applied for their 401 Water Certificate and other water and wetlands permits. Since 65 percent of the route has yet to be surveyed, the DEP said they do not have enough information for any of these approvals. This letter is important because DEP permits are required for PennEast to build this damaging pipeline so will prevent them from moving forward.

“The DEP rejection letter to PennEast Pipeline for water permits is not only big news, it is a major setback. This rejection could delay approval to the next Governor, who can help kill this project. Not only has DEP rejected PennEast’s application because it is deficient, but given all the missing information, it could take it up to a year for them to file again. By applying for these permits without adequate or accurate information, it was just a con game by PennEast and all hurts their application with the DRBC,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “PennEast wanted to rush through the process, but DEP is stopping them in their tracks. This shows that PennEast is doing is trying to bluff and buster to push this project through and DEP rejected that. DEP’s deficiency letter shows that FERC should have never released the final EIS in the first place. This because of all of missing information, lies and misinformation. How can FERC’s EIS be considered final with all of PennEast missing information? Not only has DEP come out against them because of lack of information, but also the Army Corps. This shows the whole EIS process is a sham.”

The PennEast Pipeline is 110 mile pipeline that will bring natural gas from the Marcellus Region of Pennsylvania through Hunterdon and Mercer Counties in New Jersey. The pipeline will be cutting through communities, preserved open space, and farmland. The DEP requires ample surveys of the private land the company plans to utilize. However, without this information NJDEP would not allow the project to go forward. The Department also listed the various other commissions that PennEast must comply with for approvals and exceptions.

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“DEP told them there was not enough information and 65 percent of the route has yet to be surveyed. This shows what we are doing is working because by not allowing PennEast on your property and blocking them from surveying, now PennEast doesn’t have enough information to move forward,” said Jeff Tittel. “In order to get a DEP wetlands permit, PennEast needs an exact map of the wetlands, a shape of the wetlands, how much will be impacted, which is the same for the wetlands buffers. They need an accurate map of the stream and their buffers for the Water Quality Certificate. They also need an accurate map of stream corridors and buffers for Flood Hazard permits. More importantly they need access the water quality for all of these impacts. They do not have accurate surveys for the 8 major streams and 40 tributaries. They do not even know what threatened and endangered species are on the property.”

PennEast has not yet been able to prove they can get necessary permits for construction and operation that they are applying for. The pipeline would damage important waterways, including the Delaware River. We believe that this pipeline cannot meet the requirement for a 401-water quality permit. The reason is because of the amount of high quality streams, wetlands, and rivers it is crossing through. Many of these streams carry anti-degradation criteria. The route will cut areas with steep slopes having a bigger impact on streams because of siltation and runoff. The pipeline would threaten the entire Valley including 91 acres of wetlands and over 44 miles of forest; over 1,600 acres total.

“By applying for these permits without the required information, it is part of PennEast’s arrogance because they never even walked the pipeline route, had access to get the required information, or did the proper surveys. This means they do not have permission to fill in these streams or put in the pipe,” said Jeff Tittel. “The DEP letter is another in a long list of governmental agencies that have issues with this pipeline. The Army Corps, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, DRBC all said PennEast doesn’t have enough surveys and is missing critical information. The Ratepayer Advocate even said PennEast is an unnecessary cost to ratepayers. Given all the critical streams and water supply resources PennEast is crossing, DEP should not be able to grant them a 401 Water Quality Certificate, which was how the Constitution pipeline was stopped in New York. Without getting the 401 water quality certificate, FERC cannot move forward with this pipeline either.”

The PennEast Pipeline violates the Clean Water Act and cannot meet the criteria for 404 permits either.  The DRBC controls the region within the river basin and manages water quality, withdrawals, droughts, floods, conservation and permitting for the river and its tributaries. The surface water withdrawal and discharge permit that PennEast has applied for to the DRBC would allow them to conduct hydrostatic testing and horizontal directional drilling, which is a method of boring to install underground pipe beneath bodies of water, roads or other environmentally sensitive areas. The DRBC should deny PennEast a docket because their EIS is so incomplete. 

“It is important DEP has rejected PennEast’s application because without DEP this pipeline cannot be built no matter what FERC does. FERC or DEP still have not even looked at PennEast’s greenhouse gas emissions, which would be 49 million metric tons per year. Again this is another setback along with agencies like Army Corps, DRBC, the Ratepayer Advocate, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife having problems with their application. What doesn’t PennEast get about getting the FERC out of our Valley? We’d like to see PennEast spin their way out of this one,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Together we can get this pipeline rejected and tell PennEast to get the FERC out of here. That is why we must continue to deny them survey access and keep them the FERC off our land.”

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