Federal, State Agencies Raise Significant Objections to Proposed PennEast Pipeline

Posted September 14, 2016

NJ DEP, EPA, US Fish & Wildlife Service submit comments on the flaws in FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement for PennEast.

FAR HILLS, NJ (Sept. 14, 2016) — New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJ Conservation) and Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association (SBMWA) today applauded a wide variety of federal and state agencies for their many comments on a broad range of regulatory and environmental deficiencies within the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) published by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the PennEast pipeline.

“The significant concerns raised by multiple federal and state agencies reveal the flaws in the DEIS and demonstrate how environmentally damaging this pipeline would be,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, NJ Conservation.

“Instead of considering an unneeded pipeline, FERC should be considering the ‘no-action’ alternative,” Gilbert continued. “Energy experts have concluded that existing alternatives can already meet our gas demands even on the coldest winter days at lower cost and without the damage that would be caused by PennEast.”

“These sharply-worded comments from the federal and state agencies entrusted with protecting our environment contradict the hollow claims made by FERC and PennEast that the pipeline can be built without significant impacts to our land, water and wildlife,” said Jim Waltman, Executive Director of the SBMWA. “PennEast still has a very long way to go in the regulatory process, and these comments suggest that these agencies have very significant concerns with the project.”

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) submitted a comment to FERC that outlined its many concerns with the PennEast proposal, including but not limited to: impacts to numerous high-quality “C1” waterways and lack of proof that directional drilling will be feasible to avoid impacting them; failure to explore less damaging alternatives; geological risks of irreparable erosion and impacts to bedrock from blasting; insufficient mitigation plans; missing data concerning impacts to threatened and endangered species; and PennEast’s non-compliance with various permit and monitoring requirements, and other regulatory processes at NJ DEP to which PennEast must adhere.

The DEP concluded its assessment of the DEIS by stating that “by no stretch of imagination can it be considered an ‘engineering and environmental analysis,’ ” adding that portions of the report were “disingenuous” and “insulting.”

“It is not sound science to develop an EA or EIS using incomplete data,” the NJ DEP comment stated. The NJ DEP reiterated its earlier comments that PennEast should not submit permit applications until all required information is complete. View the full NJ DEP comment on the FERC PennEast docket here.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned that PennEast would have significant environmental impacts,” and that further analysis of alternatives and cumulative impacts is needed. The agency suggested that significant data gaps would be best met through a revised EIS. It also graded the PennEast DEIS as “EO-2,” which according to the EPA’s EIS Rating System Criteria classifies the document as “Environmental Objections: Insufficient Information.” View the full EPA comment on the FERC PennEast docket here.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) published a comment that stated the FWS has rejected FERC’s request to accept the DEIS as a biological assessment, due to the DEIS’s inadequate data and survey information. They cited that there was insufficient information to concur with the DEIS on impacts to federally listed species, such as Indiana bat and bog turtle, among others. They also reminded FERC that NJ DEP and EPA have independent authority under the Clean Water Act. They asserted that no construction activity, including advanced tree-clearing, should be conducted until FERC and FWS have concluded consultations required under the Endangered Species Act. View the full FWS comment on the FERC PennEast docket here.

Gilbert added that the concerns raised by NJ DEP, EPA, and FWS mirror the comments submitted to FERC from NJ Conservation and SBMWA by the Eastern Environmental Law Center. View those comments here.


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