Several of New Jersey’s prominent environmental organizations today confirmed that a bobcat sighting has been documented by experts along the proposed PennEast pipeline route.
The bobcat is one of only three land-based mammals considered “endangered” by the State of New Jersey. The other endangered mammal species are the Allegheny woodrat and the Indiana bat. PennEast has stated that it has no intentions to survey for bobcat in order to avoid or minimize impacts on this endangered species.
The groups confirming endangered bobcat presence along the proposed route, which include New Jersey Conservation Foundation, ReThink Energy NJ, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, Washington Crossing Audubon Societyand the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, say that this is the latest example why the federal PennEast review has little or no relevance to any New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) environmental review. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to require PennEast to assess the environmental damage the project would cause to New Jersey’s irreplaceable natural resources, including threatened wildlife and their habitats. That assessment will be left to NJDEP.
The recent final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) issued by FERC for PennEast concluded that the pipeline would not cause significant adverse environmental impacts, rather than acknowledge that missing data and analysis precluded such a finding.
“Disappointingly, PennEast doesn’t even plan to survey for the bobcat, which is why we are calling on our state’s environmental regulatory agency to maintain vigilant protections for our endangered animals and their cherished habitats,” says Lisa Wolff, Executive Director, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. “This is especially critical in light of several reported sightings of bobcats along the proposed PennEast route.”
While several sightings of bobcat in the vicinity of the proposed pipeline have been reported, there is now recent documented photographic evidence confirming the presence of a bobcat near the proposed route.
“PennEast has proven itself to be a bad actor, willing to put New Jersey’s water, air and residents’ safety at risk without doing surveys, analysis, and real data collection,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, ReThink Energy NJ and New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “From the potential for arsenic contamination to our water, to safety risks and damage to preserved lands and wildlife, PennEast continues to give short shrift to the issues that will affect our environment and our families now and into the future. For a pipeline that has been proven to be unneeded, this is not acceptable.”
Since FERC left any real environmental review to other agencies, NJDEP will have to take a fresh look at adverse impacts PennEast would have on New Jersey’s special concern, threatened, and endangered species when assessing the proposed project’s need and alternatives.
The New Jersey Natural Heritage Program noted that bobcat habitats could occur within the PennEast route area in Hunterdon and Mercer counties, and their presence is now confirmed.
“The preserved lands that PennEast would traverse contain high-quality habitats with sensitive ecosystems,” said Sharyn Magee, President, Washington Crossing Audubon Society. “The presence of predators like bobcats indicates that these ecosystems support a wide range of species, including many that are rare in New Jersey. These areas were preserved because they are the best remaining undeveloped lands in an overpopulated and overbuilt state. If NJDEP fails to enforce the state’s strong laws protecting water and habitat by allowing PennEast to fragment and degrade these habitats, we could lose these rare species forever.”
“This is further evidence of PennEast’s disregard for the state regulations that protect endangered species,” said Michael Pisauro, policy director, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. “The confirmed sighting of the endangered bobcat demonstrates the importance of NJDEP requiring PennEast to, among other things, complete all wildlife and plant surveys, once the company has the legal authority to apply to the NJDEP.”