TRENTON – A coalition of environmental organizations are being backed by eight state Attorneys General and the New Jersey Ratepayer Advocate in their appeal of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval of a Williams Co. subsidiary’s Regional Energy Access Expansion (REAE) project, which would expand natural gas compressor stations in Branchburg and Old Bridge and build a new natural gas compressor station in West Deptford, plus 36.1 miles of pipeline in PA.
In July, the Niskanen Center filed a joint opening brief on behalf of New Jersey Conservation Foundation, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, Aquashicola Pohopoco Watershed Conservancy, and affected landowner Catherine Folio to contest FERC’s decision. The brief was filed in concert with Earthjustice representing Food & Water Watch and the Sierra Club.
The New Jersey Rate Counsel has also filed a brief in support of the challenge, and the Attorneys General of New Jersey, Washington State, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, and Vermont filed a joint amici brief to support the challenge to FERC’s flawed authorization of the unneeded project.
The legal briefs underscore the importance of carefully considering the implications of the REAE project and its potential effects on New Jersey’s energy landscape and the health and safety of local communities. The support from multiple states further highlights how flawed FERC’s approval of the REAE project is, and that FERC’s authorization warrants serious examination—as such precedent could hinder efforts by other states to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy sources if the DC Circuit allows it to stand.
For example, if constructed REAE will undermine New Jersey’s goal of reducing greenhouse gasses 50% by 2030 and would actually lead to a 16% increase in the state’s total greenhouse gas output annually.
The project will expand the fossil fuel infrastructure in the Garden State and perpetuate the state’s dependence on dirty energy sources. The project also risks exposing communities already overburdened by the impacts of climate change to a major source of air pollution as well as increased risk of leaks, fires, and explosions.
FERC’s decision also ignores an explicit finding from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and Ratepayer Advocate that New Jersey has sufficient capacity, does not need any additional gas capacity, and that the REAE project is unnecessary and would actually harm New Jersey ratepayers. An independent BPU-commissioned expert report shows current gas infrastructure will be able to meet demand through 2030, even during peak usage in cold winter weather.
“We’re glad to see the New Jersey Ratepayer Advocate and the multiple state Attorneys General taking a stand on the REAE dirty fossil fuel project. It’s bad for ratepayers, bad for the climate, and bad for the overall health of New Jerseyans,” said Allison McLeod, Senior Policy Director, New Jersey LCV. “REAE will undermine New Jersey’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and would in fact lead to an almost 16% increase in our total greenhouse gas output annually. We can’t make progress if we take one step forward and two steps back. Stopping this project will be a win for air quality, energy affordability, and climate justice.”
“The Regional Energy Access Expansion is nothing but a scheme to fleece residents to pay for an unnecessary and dangerous dirty energy project,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer, Kate Delany. “FERC should recognize that state regulators have made it clear that we do not need this fracked gas expansion project. Not only is REAE totally unnecessary, it would represent a major new source of climate and air pollution at a time when we are committed to shifting away from dirty fossil fuels.”
“We applaud Attorney General Platkin and the NJ Rate Counsel for their continued leadership to stop the unneeded Regional Energy Access Expansion (REAE) project,” said Tom Gilbert, Co-Executive Director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “This costly expansion of unnecessary fossil gas infrastructure will undermine New Jersey’s clean energy initiatives and threaten public health and safety.”
“It is unacceptable in 2023 for FERC to be green lighting and expanding continued fossil fuel projects while the impacts of climate change are at New Jersey’s doorstep,” said Anjuli Ramos, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club. “We just experienced the hottest July ever on record, and the REAE project would only further fuel the flames and undermine our steps toward a safe climate future. We simply cannot afford it. New Jerseyans deserve better, and the Sierra Club is proud to see decision makers, particularly NJ’s Attorney General Platkin, step up to stop this unnecessary pollution in order to better protect both people and the environment.”
This alliance with environmental organizations, the attorneys general, and the New Jersey Rate Counsel demonstrates the crucial importance of states and communities coming together and transcending traditional partnerships to challenge the interests of powerful corporations and agencies standing in the way of a clean energy future. The environmental groups challenging FERC’s approval of the project are urging the DC Circuit to conduct a thorough examination of FERC’s flawed authorization of this unneeded project.