Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association (SBMWA) and Hopewell Township Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline (HTCAPP) held a public meeting last week to advise residents about how they can participate if PennEast files an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for its proposed pipeline that would run through Mercer and Hunterdon Counties. PennEast has indicated, in news reports, that it planned to file the application in mid-September.
The meeting, open to residents from both counties, was held at the Watershed Center for Environmental Advocacy, Science, and Education at Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association, a building that serves as an example of energy and water conservation. Speakers included Jim Waltman, SBMWA Executive Director , Mike Pisauro, SBMWA Policy Director, Patty Cronheim from HTCAPP, and Mike Spille from the West Amwell Citizens Against the Pipeline.
“We’re looking at a new generation of sprawl and in some of the places we thought we had successfully protected,” said Waltman. “The Watershed Association is standing, along with our local friends and organizations throughout the region, to push back and to prevail for more a rational energy policy… But we can’t prevail without your help — this is a tough battle.”
More reasons to oppose the pipeline: Experts Testify to Health and Safety Harms Posed by PennEast Pipeline, Hopewell Twp Passes Resolution, Grasping the “Scope” of PennEast Pipeline Devastation, Alternate Route Debunked, Letter to the Editor: Sourland Conservancy Opposes New PennEast Pipeline Route
Two major reasons SBMWA opposes the PennEast (and similarly situated pipelines) are damage and lack of necessity and they assert that smarter, cheaper, lasting, more sustainable energy should be the answer.
“We oppose this pipeline because it would have irrepratabe damage drinking water, water quality, forest lands, preserved farmlands and sets an outrageous and damaging precedent that environmental accomplishments can be undone by a private corporation pursuing private profit,” said Waltman. “And it is unnecessary. This state does not have projected growth in natural gas use. There is no need for this.”
Patty Cronheim from HTCAPP spoke to the support by 33 municipal resolutions against PennEast from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the stunningly low property survey rate (a hinderance to PennEast filing with the Department of Environmental Protection), and the dedication of those fighting the pipeline.
“This is not your grandmother’s pipeline. This is a high pressure pipeline with a different content,” said Cronheim, encouraging those in attendance to tweet their opposition.
FILING: Who, what, when, where, how many times
Filing is used to mean a variety of things in the pipeline context. Up until now, PennEast has engaged in a pre-filing process which permits issues to be identified and addressed prior to official filing. “Filing,” with regard to PennEast, refers to when (or if) PennEast files a formal application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and it at that time that FERC begins the formal review, the preparation of the environmental impact statement (EIS) and begins period within which the parties may intervene.
Filing also refers to what one can do to oppose the project. Electronically, on the FERC website, one can file an e-comment, an e-filing or a motion to intervene, among other options. The e-comment is text based information while the e-filing is the attachment of a document with substantial information. A motion to intervene, or intervening, is the process of filing a formal request to be a participant in the application process, explained SBMWA Policy Director, Mike Pisauro.
To submit a document or filing on FERC website, you will have to register and get a FERC ID and password. Below are the instructions on how to register on the FERC website, how to access documents on the FERC website, how to file a motion to intervene and how to file a comment (without intervening).
Mike Spille, founder of West Amwell Citizens Against the Pipeline and author of the website The Cost of the Pipeline, offered tips on how to maximize the effectiveness of FERC commenting. The first element that one needs is to form a goal, namely trying to stop PennEast and to express to FERC specific objections about the pipeline project.
“The comment should educate FERC — assume that they know nothing. They don’t know anything about New Jersey. PennEast has actually said ‘We don’t know anything about New Jersey or the regulations,’ and the same is true of FERC because it is based in DC,” explained Spille.
Uniqueness is key to comments. “The uniqueness is what makes the comments stand apart — the geology and watershed — these are unique aspects to our area,” said Spille. The uniqueness also extends to those specific features of a particular property or the town that will be effected. Being personal and putting a face to the story, including history of family or property, helps make the the comment more impactful.
While the comment should be more specific, rather than merely general opposition to fracking or PennEast, Spille also explained that the comments do not need to be artfully written. “You don’t have to write the best comment in the world but do what you know and do what you understand and collectively it will make a tremendous difference.”
Spille offered some tips to overcome initial writer’s block such as looking at what others are writing on the FERC website or making a list of main points, which can be sent-as or can guide a longer narrative. Friends, township officials, and preservation organizations are also good resources.
As for filing a motion to intervene, right now PennEast is in the pre-filing stage, but when PennEast files, FERC will issue a notice of application. At that point, people who have an interest in the application may file to “intervene,” or become a party to the litigation. Those people eligible to intervene include any who have or represent an interest directly affected by the outcome of the proceeding, or a person whose participation serves a public interest. These requirements are broad and the speakers collectively agreed that it is easy to qualify as a potential intervener.
The rules do not set a specific timeframe within which one can intervene. If you miss the window, there are standards you will have to meet to waive the time limitations.
Speakers and advocates encourage pipeline opposers to contact not only FERC but also state legislators.
“It really makes a difference in Washington when people back home engage in these issues,” said Waltman. “Even bodies that you think are technically constructed and looking at certain parameters, they are affected when people start speaking out. Federal agencies notice when members of Congress are speaking out.”
Check out these links for more information:
- Hopewell Township Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline
- West Amwell Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline
- The Cost of the Pipeline
- Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association
- All MercerMe PennEast Pipeline articles