Sometimes dealing with PennEast and the FERC, and worrying about pipeline routes, and looking at environmental impacts, and researching energy markets, and looking for supporting evidence of various theories, and educating yourself on engineering practices, geological formations, etc etc all becomes a bit overwhelming and you start questioning your sanity. It’s all to easy to just hold your head in your hands and say “Oh lord, why is all this happening?! Why me? This is crazy….”. And I know it’s not just me, everyone I’ve talked to about pipeline issues have had the same feeling to one degree or another.
One thing that helps is to realize that we’re not alone. And I don’t just mean here in NJ and Eastern PA. I mean across the country. It’s not just PennEast that’s messing with our environment and our towns. It’s multiple pipelines around the country that people are fighting, and individuals and organizations all over the country are each learning about (and being sickened by) the FERC and its processes.
Along these lines, one day when I was doing searches in the FERC eLibrary site I decided to do something a little different. Rather than search on our docket, PF15-1-000, I decided to search….all natural gas dockets. I figured I’d see what other people were saying in their own pipeline wars.
A submission on the first page caught my eye immediately. It was entitled “Fix FERC First – Part 6”. It was a treatise on all of the things that were wrong with the FERC. I was intrigued and in the end I ended up reading all 6 parts of the series and contacted the author, Nick Miller. His full document has now grown to 7 parts plus a forward and table of contents and is available below:
Nick lives in Groton, MA, and has a story much like mine. He learned a natural gas pipeline was going to go through is town (Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee Gas pipeline) and started researching it. Over time he learned all about pipelines, and the FERC, and how pipeline proposals sail through the approval process with ease. As he researched more he became increasingly horrified at the broken FERC processes and how the pipeline companies ruthlessly take advantage of it to more or less do whatever they want.
Reading his treatise was a chilling exercise for me because his points are eerily familiar. Replace the words “Kinder Morgan” with “PennEast” and the document would still ring true. It’s amazing how all of the pipeline companies are using the same playbook and the same exact tactics to ram their proposals through the process and dupe the public into believing their for the common good.
Part 1 of his document outlines Nicks’ overall thesis. I’d distill it down to these points:
– FERC is fundamentally broken.
– FERC considers pipeline projects in isolation even when they were clustered close together geographically and in terms of timing.
– FERC lets the market determine direction instead of government dictating policy decisions.
– FERC allows pipeline companies to resort to vague handwaving and slight-of-hand, and will not force them to give the public hard facts.
As we fight the PennEast pipeline, does any of this ring a bell?
Part 2 deals with the FERC’s faulty definition of “need”. He discusses in detail how eminent domain – a gravely serious business – is being ascertained strictly by determining if a company can make money from a proposal. If the answer is “yes” then FERC considers the project justified and gives it the green light. Nick shows how the public is kept out of this process entirely and how manifestly unfair it is to residents and organizations that are affected by this process.
Part 3 goes into more detail about how the FERC colludes with the industry to mislead the general public on infrastructure projects. He lists how Kinder Morgan has engaged in a litany of misleading information and deliberate obfuscation of the truth – and how FERC has stood by and let it happen. Some examples include:
– Made presentations at town meetings where it agreed to provide answers to the written
questions submitted by the town selectmen – and then simply never even attempted to provide
those answers, despite repeated requests for them to do so.
– Filed laughably poor maps from outdated sources
– Represented a 6,000HP compressor station as more or less the same as a 90,000HP one.
– Changed routes and maps without informing affected stakeholders.
– Refused to add additional scoping meetings during extreme snow conditions
– Lied about use of existing right-of-ways, where in fact they will be widening an existing right of way considerably.
– Refused to disclose final location of compressor stations
– Answers legitimate questions with misdirections to irrelevant topics
Anyone involved in the PennEast fight will find these behaviors extremely familiar.
Part 4 of this magnificent document studies in depth just how short sighted FERC is. It goes into detail about the perils of fracking, and fossil fuels in general. He talks about FERC approving every pipeline project in site with no thought to what those pipelines in the ground will mean 30-40 years from now when they go quiescent. It talks about FERC short-changing the long term for short term corporate profits.
Part 5 is entitled “The “R” Is For Regulatory Not Rubberstamp” and is pretty self-explanatory. As we’ve seen in our fight against PennEast FERC mostly just goes through the motions without any real passion or engagement. They are clearly phoning it all in and have no intention of actually doing their jobs and truly regulating the industry’s growth.
Part 6 is a great little diversion where Nick gives quotes from other prominent people who are critical of the FERC. He includes quotes from Robert F Kennedy Jr, Elizabeth Warren and Jim McGovern. I really like the quote from Warren: “I am very concerned about a regulatory agency that is only able to say ‘yes, yes, yes.’ That’s not the job of a regulatory agency.”
Part 7 wraps it up and ties all the pieces together.
I’m glad there are people around the country like Nick who are willing to not only stand up and fight against the pipeline companies and FERC, but who take an enormous amount of time and effort to really research the issues in-depth and make a stand that is amazing for both its depth and breadth. As I said in the opening of this post, take heart people. We’re not alone in this. People around the country are waking up and see the farce that the FERC has become, and they’re determined to do something about. So keep it up and let’s do our part and contribute that noble goal of reforming the FERC and the energy policy in this country along the way.