Series Issue 5:  Approval of natural gas facilities and pipelines by FERC does not emphasize protecting us.

We are all citizens of a town, state and country with the right to expect clean air and water. 

Private industries and some elected officials push for increased use of renewable energy against the tide of billionaires and fossil fuel industries who want to enhance their profits. 

Sign Up for E-News

Scientists and many corporate gas/oil industry leaders have acknowledged that the issues of man’s contribution to climate change are real, and we have the means to slow the impact of global warming. 

New Jersey and many other states have made admirable goals about moving away from fossil fuels to renewables and improved energy efficiency.

However, the fossil fuel industry has had the comfort of protection and influence on politicians from billionaires whose funds, lobbying and demands for signing of agreements to block all climate-change legislation impact elections as well as voices of politicians.  Some pipeline companies have gained favor of local groups by providing monetary grants to them.  Pipeline companies present their projects in terms of jobs (most of which are temporary and not local) and revenue for towns and states without being required to present a study of the cost of illnesses, diseases and destruction that affects people, wildlife, water, air and the environment in the immediate and future years.

Though the process for permitting of natural gas pipelines and facilities appears to favor the companies wanting to build them, more and more people are speaking up to protect their air, water, land and health from these.  If we don’t voice our concerns and opposition, we are complicit in allowing the risks to persist for generations.

We have experienced the following frustrations during the past few years as we learned about the NESE Project and tried to have our concerns heard by federal and state agencies.  We have asked for more studies, a Health Impact Assessment, and strict oversight for any construction and operation.  We will continue to do so. 

Some issues with the environmental review & permitting process:

Applications for intrastate natural gas pipeline projects HIDE some information from the public and claim that it should be viewed only by FERC or agencies like NJDEP since public view would hamper the company’s competitive edge or threaten national security.  Then, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), whose entire budget is funded by fees collected from approved and/or operating pipeline projects, uses this private information to develop environmental impact statements and decide about issuing certificates of “public convenience and necessity”. 

  • The public is effectively denied the opportunity to understand the plans and assumptions, bolstered by assessments and/or studies which are not always published. 
  • The public is effectively denied a voice in the permitting process when FERC holds local meetings without providing adequate notice of those meetings and, at the meetings, denying the residents the opportunity to hear the concerns of each other by having residents provide their comments one-to-one in private.

FERC prepares Environmental Impact Statements, and NJDEP is tasked with issuing or denying air and water permits.  These agencies rely on air and water quality standards that were developed when the pressure and velocity of transmitted natural gas was less than it is today.  In NJ, the thresholds for toxic air emissions that are considered to protect health were substantially lowered in February 2018, but Williams/Transco received their air pollution permit for Compressor Station 206 in September 2017 under higher allowable levels of toxic emissions.

If the decisions of FERC are challenged with a request for a rehearing, FERC effectively draws out the timeline and the company is allowed to proceed with permitting applications and/or construction while FERC “considers” the request for a long time (sometimes over a year).  When a case goes to court, the public is effectively denied the opportunity to have other studies considered by the court which claims that National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) requirements are ‘essentially procedural’ and that, as long as FERC’s decision is ‘fully informed’ and ‘well-considered, it is entitled to judicial deference.’  In this particular court case, the judge(s) wrote that they afford FERC ‘an extreme degree of deference’ when considering their evaluation of ‘scientific data within its technical expertise’. 

Then there are the conflicts between landowners in Pennsylvania who want to lease their land for natural gas exploration and production with those neighbors who suffer the impacts of toxic emissions and leaks on their drinking water, air, health and well-being.  Regulations favor natural gas exploration, extraction and transmission.  However, the failure rate of new pipelines is on par with those constructed as far back as the 1940’s.  PHMSA, the arm of the Department of Transportation responsible for monitoring pipelines and compressor stations after they are operational, reported the following national statistics for gas pipelines between 1996 and 2015:  There were 11,192 reportable incidents with 6,678,631,880 dollars in damages, 371 people killed, and 1,378 other people injured.

Knowing that the risks far outweigh any possible benefit for us, wildlife, the environment and future generations, we continue to support strong actions, public policies and smart growth that will reduce the risks of explosions and pollution from natural gas pipelines and compressor stations to keep our local air and water clean.   We strongly urge all caring citizens to be part of the solution.

For more information about risks, please see our website, www.scrap-NESE.org and earlier articles in this series such as Natural gas pipelines fail and explode; Compressor Stations release toxic chemicals into the air; Sea level rise and extreme weather events are linked to increases in Greenhouse Gases; and Construction threatens wildlife and habitats on land and in the bay.

What can you do?

Tell the NJDEP that you want them to (1) hold public hearings (“fact-finding meetings”) and (2) deny the new water permit applications for the NESE Project. 

You can sign the online petition letter to NJDEP provided by Food & Water Watch by going to: 

https://secure.foodandwaterwatch.org/act/stop-transco-pipeline-and-compressor-station

See the attached letter, add your personal information at the end, and send it, along with any written comments, to the NJDEP people listed below.

You can either email it by August 3 or mail the completed letter by August 1.

Send emails of letters to:

Commissioner@dep.nj.gov                                          

Ruth.Foster@dep.nj.gov

Matthew.Resnick@dep.nj.gov

Christopher.Jones@dep.nj.gov

Mail letters to:

Catherine R. McCabe, Commissioner & Ruth W. Foster, PhD., P.G., Acting Director (addresses are on the letter)

And send copies to:

Bureau of Urban Growth & Redevelopment - Division of Land Use Regulation

501 East State Street, 2nd Floor

PO Box 420 - Mail Code 501-02A

Trenton, NJ 08625-0420

Attn.:  Matthew Resnick & Christopher Jones

Other actions that can help -                                                      

  • Tell your State Representatives to support Joe Danielsen’s Resolution AR164, and encourage your State Senators to do a companion resolution opposing the NESE Project.  See attachment.
  • Tell your local, state and federal officials about your concerns with the NESE Project and ask them to act to protect you.
  • Write comments to FERC about your concerns.
  • Go to www.scrap-NESE.org for information about the NESE Project, sample comments, the letter to NJDEP, and actions to take. 

For attachments TAP here, and TAP here