Experts Urge FERC to Suspend Review of Incomplete PennEast Pipeline Application

Posted May 26, 2016

Environmental groups publish list of missing application data, caution Federal Energy Regulatory Commission against sweeping deficiencies within PennEast submission

Pennington, NJ (May 26, 2016) — The Eastern Environmental Law Center (EELC), on behalf of New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF) and the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, today filed a letter urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to suspend its preparation of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and withdraw its Notice of Schedule For Environmental Review for the proposed PennEast pipeline. The letter highlights PennEast’s continued inability to respond to requests from FERC and other federal and state agencies to provide extensive missing data within PennEast’s application. EELC submitted this letter to FERC given PennEast’s latest failure to answer FERC’s repeated data requests.

“PennEast has been asked repeatedly by state and federal agencies to submit this additional information for its application, and has again failed to do so,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director for NJCF. “FERC must uphold the integrity of its review process and its duty to protect public interest, by assuring that PennEast’s application is completed before proceeding with its review.”

Following is a list of the top deficiencies within PennEast’s application:

1. Despite a requirement by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970, PennEast has again failed to consider alternatives for its proposed pipeline route. It also did not address FERC’s repeated requests to evaluate avoiding wells that supply public drinking water.

Why it’s important: PennEast would impact and damage more than 40 years of land conservation.  It would cause irreparable harm to 4,300 acres of taxpayer-funded preserved land and farmland, protected streams and wetlands. In addition, geophysical analysis suggests the high incidence of sinkholes along the route create an unstable setting for a 36-inch pipeline.

2. PennEast’s proposed measures to mitigate environmental impacts do not meet FERC standards. PennEast would destroy 26 of New Jersey’s most pristine, irreplaceable wetlands, and the company’s proposal to replace these sensitive habitats fails to meet minimum legal environmental mitigation standards.

Why it’s important: PennEast’s plans to “replace” the wetlands are inadequate from legal and environmental standpoints. Their proposed replacement wetlands would be of much lower quality and smaller scale, located more than 20 miles away from the original wetlands.

3. PennEast failed to complete a stream-by-stream analysis, a requirement for all new proposed pipelines, to avoid destroying sensitive wetlands and watersheds in the region.

Why it’s important: PennEast’s current proposed 118-mile route would be situated near many “Tier 1” public water supply wells and would cross 32 critical “C1” streams. The pipeline could impact the drinking water supply for 1.5 million people. 

4. PennEast submitted an insufficient arsenic study, the flawed design of which was purposely and specifically engineered to produce a favorable outcome for PennEast.

Why it’s important: PennEast’s arsenic study is inadequate because it focused on large grain particles, a much less rigorous analysis than the small-grain studies required by FERC and common scientific protocol. This heightens the risk of PennEast construction causing arsenic to contaminate New Jersey’s drinking water wells.

5. PennEast claims that it is unable and unwilling to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) directive to measure the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its pipeline. [1]

Why it’s important: Assessment tools are readily available to conduct the analysis requested by EPA. The impact of methane as a GHG is widely-documented and must be addressed by PennEast. The company’s advertising states that the proposed pipeline would lead to cleaner air. PennEast should be required to substantiate this claim.

6. PennEast’s surveys of its proposed route are woefully insufficient:

  • Most of PennEast’s surveys were conducted as desktop vs. in-field surveys.
  • The company neglected to submit a visual resources survey, did not complete a Cumulative Impact Analysis, and most of its wetlands surveys are missing.

Why it’s important: Without a comprehensive set of surveys, it is impossible for FERC to conduct a thorough draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for this project. 

PennEast also continues to ignore an October 2015 data request from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP). PennEast’s incomplete application indicates that the company is unable to comply with standard regulatory procedures.

“There continues to be overwhelming regional and bipartisan opposition to PennEast, and every NJ county and municipality along the proposed route has passed resolutions against it. The potential for environmental damage with PennEast is incalculable,” said Jim Waltman, executive director for Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. “With no market need or public demand for this pipeline, it is difficult to understand why such an environmentally damaging proposal is still being considered.  PennEast’s failure to provide complete and accurate answers to these outstanding questions after nearly two years is telling. Instead of fossil fuel projects like PennEast, New Jersey should be moving toward renewable sources of energy.”

As alternatives to a new gas pipeline, energy efficiency and demand response approaches are less expensive, less carbon-intensive, and less risky for captive ratepayers.[2]  Further, the U.S. Energy Information Administration has concluded that renewables are competitive with natural gas, despite PennEast’s unsubstantiated assertion to the contrary.[3]

PennEast claims that using natural gas leads to cleaner air and lower carbon emissions.[4]  However, the use of fossil fuels like natural gas in recent decades has increased emission levels and harmed our air quality. Natural gas is a dirty fossil fuel. Pipelines like PennEast leak methane into the air, soil and water.

PennEast’s claims of market need for this new pipeline are unfounded. Independent energy analysts have found that New Jersey already has nearly 50% more natural gas supply than needed by firm contracts, even for the most severe winters.[5]

About New Jersey Conservation Foundation

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space – from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation’s programs and preserves, go to www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).

About Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association

The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, a member-supported nonprofit organization, protects the 265-square-mile region of central New Jersey that is drained by the Stony Brook and Millstone River – an area spanning 26 towns and five counties. As central New Jersey’s first environmental group, the Watershed Association has been protecting clean water and the environment through conservation, advocacy, science and education since its founding in 1949. For more information about the Watershed and its programs please visit www.thewatershed.org or call 609-737-3735.

About Eastern Environmental Law Center

The Eastern Environmental Law Center (EELC) advocates on behalf of organizations and community groups to resolve environmental problems that threaten people, natural resources, and communities throughout New Jersey and the surrounding region.  EELC represents national, state, and local citizen groups that generally cannot otherwise afford such assistance.  EELC’s representation includes general client counseling to our 35+ clients and advocacy to promote effective environmental and land use regulations, to restore, maintain, and enhance the quality of water bodies, to protect communities from disparate impacts, and to promote smart growth and energy choices.


[1] “Responses to April 29, 2016 Environmental Information Request of PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC under CP15-558.” Pg. 34. http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20160516-5382

[2] “Power System Reliability in New England: Meeting Electric Resource Needs in an Era of Growing Dependence on Natural Gas”, Analysis Group, Inc. November 2015. http://www.mass.gov/ago/docs/energy-utilities/reros-study-final.pdf

[3] EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2015, p. 9.

[4] http://penneastpipeline.com

[5] “Analysis of Public Benefit Regarding PennEast Pipeline.” https://rethinkenergynj.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/PennEastNotNeeded.pdf

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