Environmental and conservation regulations ignored by FERC and pipeline companies

I heard Mark Gallagher speak at the Hunterdon County FERC scoping meeting. He’s a VP with a firm called Princeton Hydro that’s dedicated to environmentally-sound engineering projects. His statements focused on reminding the FERC of the rules and regulations in this state, and rather pointedly showed some instances where FERC has been ignoring the rules.

His full submission to the FERC is available here:

Princeton Hydro statement – FERC Genereated PDF

Princeton Hydro statement – FERC Genereated PDF Alternate Site

I think the best part of this submission is near the end, where he states: “Difficulty in the application of the trenchless methods due to constraints such as lack of area or slope should not be used as the basis for an argument to use more invasive measures since these constraints should be viewed as self-induced since Penneast selected the route”.

In other words, Penneast can’t say “Aww, doing it the right way is too hard!”.

My comments are primarily related to the need for the FERC and PennEast to understand the regulatory requirements associated with the proposed pipeline route. From a regulatory perspective, Penneast could not have selected a more onerous pipeline route based on the environmental sensitivity of the area and the number of special protection waters that this pipeline would impact. However, based on other pipeline projects that have been granted findings of no-significant-impact by FERC it is unclear whether either FERC or Penneast has taken any relevant Federal regulations into account when planning this pipeline.

He goes on to talk about past pipelines that FERC approved – and which were found to be sorely lacking.

Previous pipeline applications including Transco’s Leidy Southeast Expansion Project have overlooked various Federal requirements during the scoping and NEPA proecess. After review of Transco’s current application to the NJDEP it is readily apparent that compliance with the Clean Water Act was not take seriously. As indicated above, New Jerseey has assumed jurisdiction of section 440 of the Clean Water Act and as such must implement this regulation as restrictively as the Army Corps of Engineers. However, whether it be a result of ignorance or arrogance the Federal regulations have not been fully applied in previous pipeline applications.

He goes on to illustrate the many issues along the route and what PennEast must do to to conform to regulations:

The route of the Penneast pipeline has shown little to no consideration for either antidegredation streams or the preserved lands along the route. Nonetheless Penneast must show compliance with section 40CFR230.10 of the Clean Water Act.

Section CFR40 230.75 describes the need to address the minimization of adverse effects on populations of plants and animals. […] Compliance with this section of 404(b) guidelines is extremely important with regard to the Penneast pipeline since the route crosses endangered habitat and antidegredation streams. Penneast must illustrate compliance with this section of the Clean Water Act as part of its need to obtain an Individual Frewshwater Wetland Permit from the DEP.

He goes on to illustrate what methods PennEast must use to stay in compliance with the various sections of the Clean Water Act:

In order to protect the sensitive aquatic resources of New Jersey, Penneast should seek full compliance with section 404 of the Clean Water Act and New Jersey antidegredation standards by by using trenchless crossing methods for, at a minimum, all sensitive waterways that are associated with Category 1 waters and endangered species habitat. The 404(b)(1) Guidelines require an alternatives analysis which addresses how impacts to waters and wetlands (waters of the United States) have been avoided or minimized. The alternatives analysis should address practicable alternatives to the discharge of dredged and fill material for each individual crossing of a wetland and/or waterbody. The proposed method of crossing should not be simply based on convenience but rather focus on the most ecologically sensitive alternatives in order to fully comply with New Jersey and Federal Regulations. Difficulty in the application of the trenchless methods due to constraints such as lack of area or slope should not be used as the basis for an argument to use more invasive measures since these constraints should be viewed as self-induced since Penneast selected the route.

In the end he takes FERC to task again, basically saying that if FERC were not involved this would be a whole other process – one much harder on PennEast, and they would have almost certainly chosen another route (or chosen not to play this game to begin with).

In conclusion if Penneast viewed this project as a typical applicant [to the NJ DEP], not one supported by FERC, and took even a little bit of time to understand the project regulatory constraints they may have more seriously considered the value of an alternative route that would have avoided the numerous antidegradation streams and other environmentally sensitive areas that they are proposing to impact.

Indeed. If this pipeline didn’t cross the Delaware this would be an NJ-only issue, and the proposition would have been dead in the water from day one. It’s only due to the FERC ignoring environmental regulations that we’re in this mess.

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Mike Spille

I'm a thinker, an analyzer, a synthesizer. Maybe not in that order. I live in West Amwell NJ with my wife Kristina, our two kids Day and Z, our two dogs Fern and Cinna, and three cats Ponce de Leon, Oliver, and Doolittle.

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