Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio is calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to extend the open comment period for filing responses to the agency’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the controversial PennEast Pipeline project released last week.
Muoio questioned the mid-summer timing of the release, as well as the relatively brief response time afforded stakeholders to review the findings within the nearly 1,200 page report, which attempts to address the environmental impact of 118.8 miles of natural gas pipeline and related facilities and equipment, such as a 47,700 horsepower compressor and metering stations along a trek that runs from Luzerne County, PA to Mercer County, NJ.
“Many of the affected stakeholders are homeowners, concerned farmers, and their neighbors. It is hard to imagine that they would have enough time during a season packed with business, agricultural and family obligations to delve into such a report,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).
She also questioned the objectivity of an agency reliant upon production-based fees paid by the industry it is tasked with regulating.
“FERC is a government agency which should be protecting the interests of ordinary citizens every bit as much as the powerful gas companies,” added Muoio.
Muoio also stated that releasing a DEIS while so much of the information required for a full environmental assessment remains outstanding is irresponsible and further evidence of a need for federal reforms of the agency.
“The report is full of caveats regarding missing information, such as: incomplete surveying along the project route, anticipated geotechnical investigations, mitigation measures required to minimize drilling risks and well drilling sites among others,” noted Muoio. “The report seems premature, at best, and released more to satisfy the looming timeline of PennEast and its subscribers than to present a solid evaluation of this massive project, which will permanently alter our environment and landscape.”
Earlier this year, the Assembly passed legislation introduced by Muoio urging the federal government to toughen its policies on the approval of interstate natural gas pipelines in order to fully weigh the environmental costs, as well as the impact on private property owners and state and local government policies.
The measure (ACR-53) urges the President and Congress to change the laws concerning approvals of interstate natural gas pipelines so they better implement current energy policy considerations, require consideration of the cumulative impacts of the overall development of natural gas transmission infrastructure on a region, and require deference to certain competing state policy determinations.