Here’s why people find PennEast incompetent

PennEast representatives sometimes seem almost mortally exasperated in dealing with the press and general public.  They are constantly barraged with accusations of the company being bunglers, incompetents, deliberating misleading, and just plain not very good at their jobs.  And PennEast reps can’t understand why this is.  Why all the hate, people?

Well, tonight I was looking in some more detail into those IBA Avoidance routes.  In particular I was double checking the alignment, which I know is off a bit here and there.  I do that by changing the transparency of the PennEast map image back and forth from fully transparent to fully opaque, and seeing how the underlying Google map matches up to the PennEast map.

And in doing so, I remembered why it’s so hard to get the maps to line up exactly.  The PennEast map is the most ridiculous map artifact I’ve ever dealt with.  Here’s what I mean.  Here is a closeup of the PennEast version of the “IBA Avoidance” area going around Baldpate mountain.

Map A – PennEast’s Extraordinarly useful Map

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-22-28-pm

And now here’s the same thing in Google Earth:

Map B – Google Earth Version of the same location

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-10-10-pm

Yes, these two maps are showing the same thing!  The blob you see on the left on PennEast’s map is in fact a Trap Rock quarry.  The black line is the Delaware River.  The beige-ish blob you see to the right of the Delaware?  That’s Lambertville City!  The beige line you see above the pipeline route?  That’s the Route 202 bridge.

Oh yeah, and Google Earth has little things like city markers and road names!

If you look really closely you actually see many features are entirely missing from the PennEast map, such as several housing developments.  It makes you wonder just how old the PennEast base map really is.

This is a microcosm of what people who deal with PennEast see every day.  Mind-numbingly bad and useless information and materials.

Pat Kornick, you wonder why people hate your company so much?  Look at “Map A” and wonder no more.

All of the PennEast Routes in one map

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-4-56-11-pm

Welcome to the “All Possible Routes” PennEast map:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1D3K52CZ7YlojYulRNHdHpei_D-Q&usp=sharing

To help people make sense out of the craziness that is PennEast, I’ve put together a map that contains a number of route changes into one place.  This map shows all of the various major PennEast re-routes, including:

  • 2014 original Route
  • Jan 2015 MAJOR Route Change
  • March 2015 Route Changes
  • September 2015 Application Route
  • February 2016 Route Changes
  • September 2016 Route Changes
  • “IBA Avoidance” proposals from PennEast

Please note that the IBA avoidance maps are only approximate, they are based on manually aligning the PennEast images in Google Earth via image overlay.  They may be off by up to a 150′ or so, so take them with a grain of salt.  The other maps are all directly sourced from PennEast.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1D3K52CZ7YlojYulRNHdHpei_D-Q&usp=sharing


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Those crazy Important Bird Area “avoidance” routes

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-7-24-49-pm
As part of PennEast’s most recent submissions to FERC, they were asked to look at re-routes to avoid Important Bird Areas (IBA). This because they are severely impacting several.
 
Their answer? The maps below. The blunt lines in blue are the “alternative” possible route that would avoid IBAs. Except these alternatives are clearly crazy. They add miles to the route and are completely unsurveyed.
 
These are NOT any sort of official route, and PennEast is saying they are not interested in developing them, but nonetheless these are their possible response routes if they are forced to avoid IBAs.
 
The places to look:
 
Hickory Run State Park (PA) – Alternate runs to the east of the park through a housing development.
 
Holland NJ area (NJ) – Alternate avoids Holland almost all together, crosses more of PA with a stab upwards to connect to the Gilbert plant, and then crosses the Delaware at another point to continue into NJ. Yes, two crossings of the Delaware for this.
 
Frenchtown (NJ) – Route moves closer to Frenchtown in the vicinity of Horseshoe Bend Road.
 
West Amwell (NJ) – Route misses West Amwell and Baldpate Mountain almost entirely. By heading out West at Route 202, over the Delaware and then going South West 8.4 miles into PA. Then turning around and ultimately crossing the Delaware again between the I95 Bridge and the Washington Crossing Bridge
Many people think these proposals are being made to make the current route look good.  Others think maybe PennEast is trying to avoid more of NJ.  It’s tough to say, but no matter how you look at it these alternate routes are very, very bad options.  Warn people you know in these areas and get them involved!  They can still comment before the Dec 5th deadline.
 
Map link below:

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You can still intervene against PennEast, and right now it’s extra easy to do

intrervene

Many people are confused by the FERC intervention process, and the various time windows when you are considered “timely”, and when you’re considered late (technically known as intervening “out-of-time”).

What is intervening in a FERC matter?  What it means is that you are formally declaring yourself as an interested party.  And by doing so, you are forcing FERC to respond to any issues you bring up.  Plus, you can be party in any suits or motions against the project before FERC.  Note the intervening is not the same as commenting – intervening defines your status are someone formally declaring yourself as wanting to be involved.  Comments are independent of that, and you can comment as many times as you like.  You only need to intervene once in the proceeding, so if you’ve already intervened you’re all good, and keep focusing on sending FERC comments!

If you’re not an intervenor, FERC has no obligation to listen to you or to respond to, and you may not be party to any motions against it.

On the “timely” vs. out-of-time stuff, there are only limited times when FERC considers you intervening in a timely manner.  If you intervene out side of these windows, FERC may reject your intervention out of hand as being obstructionist and/or irrelevant to the proceedings.  So you want to be a “timely” intervenor if at all possible.

The good news is that right now we happen to be in such a window!  FERC has a rule that states that any filing to intervene during a DEIS  comment period is automatically considered “timely”:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/18/380.10

Any person who files a motion to intervene on the basis of a draft environmental impact statement will be deemed to have filed a timely motion, in accordance with § 385.214, as long as the motion is filed within the comment period for the draft environmental impact statement.

Since FERC has added a 30 day comment period on the Draft EIS (based on the September 23rd route changes), this means people can file a timely intervention with FERC.

So if you file by December 5th, you will be automatically accepted as an intervenor on PennEast.

There are many reasons to intervene in the proceeding, and no downsides at all.  Some things to note:

  • FERC’s own regulations say they must answer every issue pointed out by an intervenor.  If you are not an intervenor, there is no requirement that they answer you.
  • Higher intervenor counts tell the federal government the level of interest and opposition to the project
  • Timely intervening  is very simple.  See the link below.
  • You don’t need a lawyer and it’s free
  • Adding yourself to the growing list of intervenors sends a powerful message to our politicians, agencies such as NJDEP and the Delaware River Basin Commission, and others.
Read more about intervention and how to do it here:

http://www.pipeinfo.org/intervene

We also have a sample document you can use to intervene anytime by December 5th.

Sample Intervening Document – use by December 5th, 2016

Be sure to replace your name and address everywhere relevant in the document (bolded).

NOTE: If you miss the December 5th, deadline, we go back to any requested interventions being “out-of-time”.  Those are more complex and may be rejected by FERC, so it’s in your best interest to get this done by the 5th!

If you do need to intervene out of time please contact us at thecostofthepipeline@gmail.com and we’ll get you instructions in how to do so.


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Open cutting through our roads

So PennEast released part of their “traffic plan” today as part of their big data dump to FERC.  It’s not so much of a plan as it is a list of what roads they’re crossing, and whether they’re going to bore under them, HDD under them, or simply open trench cut through them.

Originally indications were that PennEast would bore or HDD under every asphalt road, at least in the NJ side.

Well, they changed their minds.  The following is the list of roads where they intend to Open Cut trench.

NJ

Hopewell:
Blackwell Road (twice)
Lawrenceville Pennington Road/Rte 632
Reed Road
Pennington Titusville Road
Goat Hill Road (Twice!)

West Amwell
Hewitt Road
Old Route 518 W

Delaware/Kingwood Area:
Phillips Road
Dogwood Drive
Church Road

Holland/Alexandria Area:
Phillips Road
Gilbert Plant Road

PA

Sherers Hill Road
Spring Hill Road
Durham Road
Raubsville Road
Hexenkoph Road
Buttermilk Road

Birkland Place
William Penn Highway
Church Road
Green Pond Road

Hecktown Road

Monocacy Drive/State Route 987
Hatch Gravel Rd T496
Glase Road
Biegley Road

State Game Land Access Road MP 51.0R2
Lower Smith Gap Road
Whitetail Ln

Little Gap Road
Spruce Road
Beers Ln
Long Fenc Rd
Spruce Hollow Rd

Lovitt Road/T527
Towamansing Rd
Redwood Drive
Balsam Drive

Shades Glen Road

Election Road
Cody Ln

Ridgewood Road
Union Street
Shulde Ln
North Ridge
Bunker Hill Road
Carveton Road
Gypsy Ln


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Please Comment to FERC

As we mentioned before, FERC has opened a 30 day comment period on the PennEast pipeline that runs from Nov 4th 2016 to December 5th.  We need you, your friends, your neighbors, and anyone else you can think of to take advantage of this opportunity and comment to FERC.

While the comment period is ostensibly about the route changes PennEast made in late September, 2016, you can in fact comment on any aspect of the project.  For those who want to focus on just the September 23 2016 filings, you can get all the files over at pipe info.org here:

http://www.pipeinfo.org/sep-23-2016-route-change

The first  two files have a broad overview of the changes with some boilerplate text describing the changes.  The rest are detailed construction maps (including HDD proposals).

To help people along, the Citizens Against the Pipeline (CAP) organizations are putting together a series of templates that people can submit.  We’ll be distributing these through all of the CAPs and various web properties in the next week.

Here’s our first set, which are admittedly biased towards my neck of the woods (West Amwell/Lambertville).  These are all in MS Word format:

As always feel free to personalize and modify these to your tastes and concerns.  More to come!

If you’re not sure how to comment, please visit this page for detailed instructions:

http://www.pipeinfo.org/ferc-comment-instructions

As always, we ask that people try to split comments up by topic, one topic per submission, so that FERC doesn’t lose anything in the process.  Also, if possible please try to submit new, original comments.  Recycling old comments can help, but fresh new ones are always better.

We also have a motivation powerpoint (link below) to help underline why it’s still important to comment, and some “wins” we’ve had in recent months.  This fight is far from over.

West Amwell CAP Presentation – 30 Day Comment Extension

For anyone with any questions or comments, as always feel free to email me at thecostofthepipeline@gmail.com


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West Amwell Citizens Against the Pipeline Meeting tonight

Tonight at 7pm, WACAP meeting open to all (you don’t have to be a resident!).

West Amwell Municipal Building
150 Rocktown Lambertville Road
Lambertville, NJ 08530

wherewereat

We’ll be discussing where we’re at in the permitting process, impacts of the presidential election on the process, recent victories, and what we can say and do during the 30 day comment period that ends December 5th.

Come join us!

For those who can’ make it, here is a copy of the presentation:

WACAP Nov 17, 2016 Presentation

Post-Election Edition

So yesterday happened.  No matter who you voted for yesterday, we’re looking at a very different world coming at us today.  There are many unknowns going forward, and I know many people out there are depressed, dazed, confused and hurting.  Others are celebrating, some with unbridled zeal, others with a hint of restraint along the lines of “OMG, this is real now…”.

Locally, I cheered to see Rich, Cally, and Hoyer sweep all three West Amwell Township seats, proving that West Amwell can’t be bought for $45,000.  And I was very upset to see Kristin McCarthy lose in Delaware Township by just a few percentage points, victim of a last minute smear campaign by her opponent.  And Peter Jacob lost, but still ran a remarkable race with zero corporate donations against Leonard Lances $600k+ in money from special interests.

On the National level, a Trump Presidency is going to make things very difficult for those opposed to fossil fuel infrastructure.  But all is not lost.  Instead, it means we’re all going to have to hunker down and take a careful look at our respectful strategies.  FERC has opened up a new 30 day comment period on the project and also pushed the Final EIS date back two months, so we have gained valuable time to regroup.

FERC in a Trump Administration

As I’ve mentioned before, FERC is down to only three commissioners. The timing of the Final EIS being moved along with a final decision date in May, 2017, may have been partially a ploy by the three commissioners to avoid making a decision until more are appointed by the next President.

Now with as Trump President-elect, we pretty much know where that is headed now.  This opens the doors for 2 commissioners to be appointed by Trump that could additionally weigh in on PennEast.  The way FERC was setup, only 3 commissioners can be the same party as the President.  We currently have Norman Bay, Cheryl LaFleur, and Colette Honorable as commissioners, which are all Democrats.  This leaves two Republican nominations from Trump immediately, and then a third when Colette Honorable’s term is up June 30th, 2017.

I think it’s pretty plain what FERC will do under Trump.

Alternatives

So we’d have to rely on the courts instead, who I suspect may be getting a whole lot of cases over the next four years, and other agencies to fight pipeline infrastructure.

The EPA and other agencies have been pushing hard against FERC the past year, and we’ve seen delays coming about because of it, and FERC was showing signs of giving into the EPA in some areas.  How the EPA will act under a Trump administration is another question altogether.  The same is true of Fish & Wildlife and other Federal agencies.  What happens to them under Trump could have a profound impact on environmental policy for a very long time.

A bright spot here is that the States remain the stewards of the Federal Clean Water Act, and in NJ the DEP is responsible for both the 401 Water Quality Certification as well as the 404 wetlands one.  Even under Trump, NJDEP could potentially stop PennEast and other projects cold.  Let’s look at that for a moment.

Right now, the battle in NJ against pipelines is extremely fierce, and many battles are being won by opponents.  While the Christie administration’s appointees have been trying to maneuver around the law to get projects approved, opponents have started to learn how to counter that.  Recently NJ Sierra Club won a case where the administration tried to sneak the BL England pipeline project through without approval from the Pipelines Commission.  The courts have ordered that the Commission has to review the project and can’t be circumvented.  This approach will likely be brought against the Southern Reliability Link as well.  Both are critical to success for the PennEast owners in regards to PennEast.

In addition, opposition continues on the Garden State Expansion’s 404 wetlands permits.  Unprecedented numbers of people turned out in opposition of it, and the project is getting delayed repeatedly.  The GSE is the link between PennEast and the Southern Reliability Link.  Without it, a huge blow would be struck against New Jersey Resources, the largest shipper on PennEast and 20% owner.

There is also the DRBC and other regional agencies that may be influenced below the Federal Level.

What this means to me is that while we may face increased difficulties at the Federal level, the State level may see intense and increased scrutiny and opposition.  There is also the question of what happens to Christie now that Trump has been elected.  Unless Bridgegate has fatally killed his career entirely (a possibility), Christie could well be leaving us New Jersey residents for the national stage.  If that happens the calculus in NJ opposing pipelines could change for the better.


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Final EIS Officially delayed 2 months!

delayed

Yesterday I went out on a limb and predicted that the FEIS would be delayed at least 60 days.  For a lot of reasons – because of the new 30 day public comment period announced last week,  the document filed yesterday by FERC asking PennEast for answers to 46 complex questions, and the general pushback from many government agencies against FERC.

I’m happy to say I got lucky on this one, and today FERC officially announced the Final EIS will be delayed by 60 days.  Read it here:

http://elibrary.FERC.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20161108-3025

The Notice looks like it was rushed out the door and is full of errors and inconsistencies.  I think FERC is really feeling the heat on PennEast and other pipelines, and we’re seeing them crack under pressure.  The notice says:

This notice identifies the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) staff’s revised schedule for the completion of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC’s (PennEast) PennEast Pipeline Project. The first notice of schedule, issued on March 29, 2016, identified December 16, 2016 as the EIS issuance date. Based on new route modifications filed by PennEast. The Commission staff intend to issue a notice to newly affected landowners. Commission staff has therefore revised the schedule for issuance of the final EIS.

As you can see it resembles English but has some issues when you look more closely.  The actual schedule is listed below that, and says:

Issuance of Notice of Availability of the final EIS:         February 17, 2017

90-day  Federal Authorization Decision Deadline:        May 18, 2017

This is great news for us.  Everything is now pushed back a minimum of two more months, and given timing of various activities that are constrained due to environmental issues, this could be another 6 month or a year delay.

Remember, PennEast originally thought they’d already have a Certificate by now.  Now it’s pushed off at least six months from now.

I think it also may not be a coincidence that this dropped on Election day in the United States.  FERC is down to only 3 commissioners (of their usual 5), and those three people must really feel the pressure.  I’m guessing they’re going to wait until they have a new President installed and some new members appointed before they make a decision.


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Setting the Record Straight on Kristin McCarthy

Low-brow politics isn’t unique to any given party, and certainly isn’t confined to just our little race in West Amwell Township.  Here in West Amwell we have a group of Democratic challengers who are using smear tactics and barrels of union money to try to force their way into the Township Committee.  In Delaware Township, it looks like smear tactics are alive and well, there too, but with the parties reversed.

A friend sent me this flyer today that’s been mailed throughout Delaware Township.

kristinmccarthysmear

I met Kristin McCarthy through the PennEast pipeline fight, we’ve worked together in a number of different areas to beat this project, our Citizens Against the Pipeline groups have worked together with other CAPs to bring grassroots organization together.  I’ve seen first hand her passion and commitment to beating this thing, and knowing her personally I find this brochure to be appalling.  The number of misleading, inaccurate, and exaggerated things on this brochure are simply astounding.

It is extremely well known why Kristin dropped out of the Township  Committee Race.  She did it because she felt she needed to devote 100% of her available time to fighting the PennEast pipeline.  The pipeline came out of nowhere and turned all our lives upside down, and Kristin made a brave choice to push politics aside and do what was right – fight for the rights of Delaware Township residents against PennEast and FERC.

Calling her a “Quitter”?  Making it sound like she ran away from her candidacy capriciously?  Saying she “Let us down before”.

It’s all wrong, it’s all misleading, and people of Delaware Township shouldn’t believe it for a second.

The reality is that Delaware Township has been the epicenter of the effective resistance against PennEast and the CAP organizations.  DTCAP has been a hellaciously effective organization against PennEast.  They organized with astonishing rapidity, picked up speed and never looked back.  And Kristin was key in making that happen.  EVERYONE who is working hard against PennEast knows Kristin by sight and by name.

You guys – Delaware Township – are where so much of the fight against PennEast originated, and Kristin is one of the key people that made it happen.  And the only way she was able to bring DTCAP so far was upend her own political career and step down from the race.  She did what she felt was right to maximize our chances against PennEast.

Now she wants to come back to the Delaware Township committee.  I don’t live there so I don’t get to vote, but if I did I would vote for Kristin in a heartbeat.  She is the type of person you want leading a small township through adversity and beating the odds.

Don’t believe this smear campaign, sent out at the last minute to sully her good name.  Don’t look at the personal attacks, such as claiming she single handedly raised taxes all on her own while providing no context (this part of a smear is sadly very familiar to us here in West Amwell this election cycle). Take a look at Kristin’s actual record of 9 years on the Township Committee, her two years as mayor.  Take a look at the organization she built up in DTCAP.  Quitter?  You gotta be kidding me.