PennEast Applies to DRBC – Battle Starts

Proposed route of PennEast pipeline according to its website: https://penneastpipeline.com

PennEast has filed an application to the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to approve the Delaware River Basin portion of Phase I of the PennEast Pipeline Project. Earlier this week, the DRBC sent a letter to the Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC) stating that the PennEast Pipeline is subject to DRBC review and approval because their planned activities meets at least one of the DRBC’s regulatory thresholds.

“PennEast has made their application to DRBC, so now the battle really starts. They’re trying to get approval for building their pipeline on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. The whole reason that they split the pipeline into two segments was to try to sidestep DRBC oversight. If they get approval in Pennsylvania, PennEast could use it to put pressure on NJ regulators to try to push through their project,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “They tried to tell FERC that they didn’t need DRBC approval, but DRBC stood up to them and refuted their lies. PennEast will do or say anything to try to get their terrible pipeline approved.”

In March, The Delaware River Basin Commission submitted comments to FERC regarding the PennEast Pipeline Project. They state that Phase 1 of the project is subject to review under Section 3.8 of the Delaware River Basin Compact and implementing regulations to ensure compatibility with the Commission’s Comprehensive Plan. PennEast’s application includes permits for Post-Construction Stormwater Management, Site Restoration, Horizontal Directional Drill Water Withdrawal and Water Discharge, Wetland Restoration.

“DRBC needs to require a full EIS with at least seven public hearings. They also need to have public hearings for the different permits related to wetlands, site restoration, post-construction stormwater management, and HDD water withdrawal and discharge. They also need to understand that PennEast is playing a game by splitting the project into two segments. Once the pipeline is built in Pennsylvania, they can use it to push the project through in NJ. DRBC cannot let PennEast get away with their manipulation and misinformation,” said Tittel. “This project will have major environmental impacts. It will cross countless important streams, impact water quality, bulldoze forests, release a tremendous amount of greenhouse gases, and will cut an ugly scar through the Delaware River Basin.”

PennEast has split their plan to construct the pipeline into two phases. The first phase is in Pennsylvania, where the pipeline has met much less resistance. This phase includes construction of approximately 53.3 miles of pipeline and construction of a new natural gas compressor station. Phase 2 of the project, which is not a part of the present application, would extend the proposed pipeline across the Delaware River into Mercer County, NJ at an undetermined future date.

“Another part of the game is that PennEast could use the Adelphia Gateway Pipeline to get around the opposition and environmental reviews for the pipeline in New Jersey. Although the Adelphia Pipeline can currently only hold half of PennEast’s gas, they could easily make it bigger or add a loop using existing right-of-ways. They could intersect the line above Frenchtown and bring the pipe down the Pennsylvania side, tying into the Adelphia line that crosses the river and even connect it to the proposed South Jersey Gas pipeline,” said Tittel.

Several government agencies, including the NJDEP and EPA have commented on PennEast Pipeline Company LLC, Docket No. CP20-47-000. DEP recommended FERC conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for both phases of the project, which should include consideration of historical resources for both project phases, and require PennEast to demonstrate that both Phase I and Phase II are needed. The EPA recommended the EA needed to include a clear justification of purpose and need, provide information on the end uses, and more.

“Many agencies have raised real concerns with PennEast’s application. Not only DRBC, but NJDEP, Trump’s EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and even FERC themselves. DRBC noted that the first phase of the project is completely within the drainage area of their Special Protection Waters. This means that their review is required for discharges of used HDD directly to basin waters. In their comments, DEP and EPA emphasized that PennEast must demonstrate that their segmented project is needed. PennEast along with NJNG, SJ Gas and others are selling the gas to themselves and not selling to the area,” said Tittel. “The Ratepayer Advocate already said that the PennEast pipeline is unneeded and will raise rates, costing consumers money.”

Some of the major state-owned properties that are part of the PennEast Pipeline route include the Delaware River and Raritan Canal, Bulls Island State Park, Goat Hill, and Baldpate Mountain. Near its southern terminus, the pipeline would cut through the Sourland Mountains, which contain the last contiguous forested areas in central New Jersey and have been recognized as a unique and fragile ecosystem.

“The battle for PennEast Pipeline’s approval from DRBC is now on. DRBC should kick out PennEast’s application as being incomplete and make them do a full EIS and environmental review. Their applications have been deficient in the past. DRBC should be looking for what they’ve left out this time. This is a serious project that will affect many people on both sides of the river. The pipeline would threaten the entire Valley including 91 acres of wetlands and over 44 miles of forest, 88 waterways; over 1,600 acres’ total,” said Tittel. “We have been fighting the PennEast pipeline for the past 5 years, and we will keep on fighting to make sure this unnecessary project will never be put in the ground. We need to get the FERC out of here.”

Submitted by the NJ Sierra Club

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