Request on Premature Application Latest Example of Pipeline Ignoring Law, Clear Instructions From State Agency
FAR HILLS, NJ (June 26, 2017) — “PennEast seems to think that it is above the law with this latest request for special treatment for its unneeded pipeline,” Tom Gilbert, campaign director for ReThink Energy NJ and New Jersey Conservation Foundation, said today.
“The NJDEP has clearly laid out its requirements for a complete application and PennEast has failed to meet them. We now look to NJDEP to uphold the law by rejecting this extension request as well as the original premature, incomplete permit application,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert’s statement was made in reaction to PennEast’s request for a 60-day extension from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) on an incomplete application that was submitted on April 6 without meeting NJDEP laws about who may apply for permits. Moreover, the application was directly in violation of NJDEP’s instruction to the company not to apply until it had completed the required surveys and analyses.
NJDEP asserted that the company had not secured the necessary approvals from most landowners along the proposed pipeline route, much less submitted the required survey data or analyses of alternatives and adverse impacts to environmental resources. On April 26, NJDEP gave PennEast 30 days to address the outstanding issues or they would reject the application as incomplete. If the information was not submitted by 60 days (June 26), the Department said it would “administratively close” the application
“PennEast continues to ignore NJDEP’s clear, repeated guidance on the applicable laws and regulations that protect our water, land, and communities. Now we need NJDEP to hold PennEast to the letter of the law. The Department must hold this reckless company fully accountable to all legal requirements, since PennEast is clearly trying to rush this project through,” said Jim Waltman, executive director, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.
PennEast is seeking two key approvals from NJDEP: a Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit and a Water Quality Certificate. Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has not issued a final Certificate for PennEast and is unable to do so until Congress approves President Trump’s two nominees to the Commission and re-establishes a quorum.
“This is a request for an extension on an application that never should have been submitted in the first place, and PennEast’s references to FERC’s review process are completely gratuitous. DEP has been clear that FERC’s shoddy environmental review does not replace the Department’s obligation to enforce its own laws,” said Jennifer Danis, senior staff attorney at Eastern Environmental Law Center.
“NJDEP should reject both the application and the extension request outright, to protect New Jersey’s exceptional natural resources from this ill-conceived pipeline,” Danis added. “PennEast cannot prematurely apply in violation of the law and then claim it has good cause to ask for extensions under those laws.”
Last week, a bipartisan group of 31 elected officials from 15 municipalities and the Mercer and Hunterdon County Freeholder boards sent a joint letter to NJDEP urging the Department to reject PennEast’s application because of the threats it poses to health, safety, property rights, and natural and historic resources.