Conservation groups and impacted homeowners today condemned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for issuing a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed PennEast pipeline.“FERC’s flawed review of the PennEast project failed to thoroughly examine the significant environmental impacts the pipeline would cause,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director of ReThink Energy NJ and New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
“We vow to double our efforts to stop this pipeline from damaging our land, polluting our air and water, and putting our families at risk. Citizens’ voices matter, and this is a project that should — and will — be stopped,” continued Gilbert.
According to the groups, the final EIS simply repeated the unfounded conclusions of its previously issued draft EIS: that the project would not cause significant adverse environmental impacts. The groups also assert that PennEast has completely ignored the significant concerns regarding impacts to water, wildlife and the safety and health of communities, raised by elected officials, federal and state agencies, scientists and thousands of citizens.
Lawyers at Eastern Environmental Law Center (EELC) and Columbia Environmental Law Clinic (CELC) are prepared to bring PennEast to the courts should the project plow forward, according to the groups, and that FERC must still consider whether there is any true public need for the project prior to issuing a certificate.
“Former FERC Commissioner, Norman Bay, specifically warned the Commission against rubber stamping projects like PennEast just because private applicants say they want to build them. PennEast’s record on need is a shaky base for its house of cards — as expert and agency data should easily topple it,” said Jennifer Danis, senior attorney, EELC, whose firm, together with CELC, represents NJ Conservation and the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.
Danis noted that other agencies with the power to say “no” to this project have yet to begin their review under stringent state and regional environmental laws, including reviews by the Delaware River Basin Commission and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).
“Reaching conclusions without facts in hand tramples on the rights of impacted landowners who will pay the price if FERC conditionally approves a project that only benefits PennEast’s investors,” said Michael Heffler, Board member, HALT PennEast (Homeowners Against Land Taking). “We strongly urge FERC’s commissioners to consider these facts before making their final decision on the project.”
Senators Booker and Menendez of New Jersey, Representatives Lance (R-NJ), Watson-Coleman (D-NJ), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Cartwright (D-PA), as well as numerous experts and scientists, and state and federal agencies, filed comments and research with FERC. In these, they noted the glaring deficiencies of the draft EIS, imploring the agency to consider the significant environmental, public health, and safety threats that PennEast poses, including:
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) and independent geologists warned about the risk of PennEast elevating arsenic levels, a known carcinogen, in drinking water. They called for further study.
- EPA said the pipeline would cause ‘significant’ environmental impacts, that greenhouse gas effects were not fully assessed, and that the draft EIS was based on incomplete surveys and data collection.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has noted insufficient survey data to evaluate impacts to federally listed species and noted that no construction or tree-clearing activity can occur until Endangered Species Act consultations are completed.
- NJDEP has repeatedly noted insufficient data to even consider an application, including stream-crossing analyses and surveys for threatened wildlife and rare plants.
PennEast submitted permit applications to NJDEP this week, ignoring the Department’s clear, written directions not to apply until they have completed all surveys and submitted the necessary data.