Below are some additional comments I submitted today to the FERC regarding the scoping process and the poor resources they give individuals to have their voices heard.
I believe the FERC is not providing adequate means for impacted residents to have their voices heard in regards to the PennEast pipeline. While at first glance it may appear that there are sufficient avenues for individuals to comment, including the ferc.gov website and the individual scoping meetings, upon deeper inspection it’s clear that these alternatives are deeply flawed and rob people of their rights.
We have only two scoping meetings in NJ, located an hour apart from each other. As an example, the Trenton location was closest to me but I was unable to attend due to a conflict with my job. As such I was forced to drive to the northern Hunterdon location which is a very long distance away. I know many people have been dissuaded from attending the pipeline meetings because of timing.
In addition the meeting lengths are inadequate. At both meetings time was cut off with people who were on the speaking list dropped. I was lucky enough to speak because I left my job early and made the long drive, arriving at the meeting location 40 minutes in advance. As it was I wasn’t able to speak until 9:40pm, less than twenty minutes before the meeting was terminated. That means people who arrived on time at 6pm were left out.
FERC needs to extend the scoping period by at least 90 days and add two more meetings venues in NJ so that people’s voices will be heard.
The other issue is the ferc.gov web site. This web site has multiple down times every single day. Literally every day – I check the site routinely to search for interesting comments to highlight on my weblog, and every single day I encounter problems. I know there is the backup site for searching, but that does not help people who want to make comments or eFilings. To make matters worse the web site is extremely hard to use requiring a number of arcane steps to get comments submitted or to submit files. I am a software developer with 25 years experience in the field and I, as a software professional, have extreme difficulty in using your site. My initial eFiling took multiple tries to go through.
I can only imagine how the average citizen with a less technical background copes with the site.
This provides a material barrier to people letting you know about issues with the pipeline and its proposed route.
We’re dealing with a billion dollar pipeline, slated to carry a billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in a high pressure 3 foot wide piece of steel, in a trench 8 feet deep that’s over a hundred miles long. And our only tools to comment on this immense project is a creaky stone age web site reminiscent of the worst of the Internet from the 1990’s, and over-crowded, widely spaced apart scoping meetings where people’s scheduled speaking times are dropped.
I’ll update this post with the link when it becomes available on the eLibrary FERC site.