True Safety Standards
In its regulatory filings PennEast has indicated that they’ll be following the minimum federal standards for pipeline construction, and they even have thrown in a couple of bones to make the pipeline even safer: they’ve pledged to put in slightly safer pipe in rural areas, and to also inspect every weld they do. Which is above and beyond the federal regulations (and says a lot about those regulations I might add).
According to their web site, PennEast says “[we] will incorporate the best safety practices from construction through operation…Safety is PennEast’s highest priority when designing pipelines. PennEast is adopting design features and operating practices that meet or exceed stringent industry and regulatory standards”.
As it turns out, that’s not really true. At least not in the state of New Jersey.
In NJ, the Board of Public Utilities has done extensive analysis of Federal pipeline safety standards, and have found them to be lacking. As a result they have enacted far stricter guidelines in order to help guarantee that we have far safer pipelines than what the federal government allows. I’ll be detailing those guidelines and the reaction of industry below, but before I do there’s one more thing you ought to know.
PSEG, Elizabethtown Gas, NJ Natural Gas, and South Jersey Gas have all enthusiastically embraced these stricter guidelines as a huge step forward in ensuring public safety. They’ve applauded the BPU for enacting such great legislation. The guidelines require all pipeline be built to Class 4 specifications regardless of population density, require 4′ as the minimum depth of cover, and require stringent oversight of workers.
And, as the majority owners in PennEast Pipeline LLC, they won’t be following any of the rules, ’cause, ya know, federal guidelines supercede state ones in interstate pipeline projects.
Please, write to all four companies and tell them that you’re going to hold them to the NJ standards they have pledged themselves too, and that, in the unfortunate event that this pipeline gets built, they will pledge to use these regulations to govern installation along the entire 100+ mile route.
The remainder of this post is my FERC comment on this topic, and includes some real eye-openers (they certainly were to me!).
After studying PennEast’s filings, I believe there is far more that PennEast could do to ensure the safety of the community in regards to this pipeline.
The New Jersey Board of Public utilities has done a thorough analysis of Federal Law in the matter of pipeline safety, and has determined that the federal statutes do not provide an adequate level of safety for the public. As a result they have enacted far more stringent rules in the state.
The NJ regulations state in part:
” The State system for designing pipelines based on the class location in relation to population density, found at N.J.A.C. 14:7-1.3, requires all pipelines installed after the effective date of the proposed amendments to be designed to Class 4 pipeline location standards, the highest standard for similar pipelines designed under the Federal classification system at 49 CFR 192.5. This may result in some costs for pipeline operators, although most have voluntarily chosen to meet higher standards than Federally required. To the extent that costs are incurred, the Board has determined that these costs are justified in order to ensure safety”.
In this section the Board of Utilities has ruled that the class location system is not adequate, and mandates that Class 4 pipeline be used in all locations as of this time.
The statutes continue onto the depth of cover of pipelines:
“The Board’s rules governing minimum cover of mains and service lines found at N.J.A.C. 14:7-1.12 are more stringent than corresponding Federal regulations at 49 CFR 192.327 and 192.361. N.J.A.C. 14:7- 1.12(a) and (b) require 36 inches cover over distribution mains and 48 inches cover over transmission pipelines, respectively, in comparison with Federal regulation requirements, at 49 CFR 192.327, of 24 inches cover over distribution mains and 36 cover over transmission pipelines.
To the extent that this rule requires an operator to install pipelines at increased depths of cover, there will be some costs incurred. However, the Board has determined that these costs are justified as a measure of damage prevention and to ensure the protection of people, property, and the environment, especially in densely populated areas”
Here the BPU has determined that federal statutes are not adequate for our state, and that a minimum cover of 4′ be used for all transmission pipelines.
Follow the strictest guidelines that will protect our families and friends
I submit that if PennEast is interested in truly designing and constructing a safe pipeline, that they should conform to all of the NJBPU regulations, and specifically should use Class 4 pipe exclusively throughtout the route; that a minimum of 48″ of cover be used over the pipeline in all locations; and that the remaining NJ Board of Public Utilities regulations be adopted as well.
PennEast members have already endorsed these rules
I will further note that when these rules were up for re-adoption, that the four major NJ companies involved in natural gas utilities in the state were invited to comment, and they did.
The full text is available here:
Those companies were:
– South Jersey Gas Company
– Pivotal Utility Holdings d/b/a Elizabethtown Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of AGL Resources
– New Jersey Natural Gas
– Public Service Electric and Gas Company
I would like to highlight some comments here:
COMMENT: We support the readoption of Chapter 7, and commend the Board for many of the proposed amendments which provide additional clarity and understanding while strengthening pipeline safety within the state. (SJG)
RESPONSE: The Board appreciates this comment in support of the rule.
COMMENT: We fully support the basic principles of ensuring continued pipeline safety and damage prevention, an appreciate the effort demonstrated by the Bureau of Pipeline Safety staff in preparation of the rule. (PSE&G) (ETG)
RESPONSE: The Board appreciates this comment in support of the rule
COMMENT: We concur with the amendment to N.J.A.C. 14:7-1.3 as written. All of our natural gas pipelines are currently Class 4 design and operation, and we agree with the requirement that all new pipelines constructed after the effective date of this rule shall meet the design standards for a Class 4 pipeline location. (SJG)
RESPONSE: The Board appreciates this comment in support of the rule
COMMENT: Proposed N.J.A.C. 14:7-1.6(a) and (b), which require oversight by qualified welding inspectors, should apply to transmission lines only. The character of transmission lines, especially their potential leak failure mode, makes them much more appropriate for this level of scrutiny. In addition, the rule should be modified from “ensure oversight” to “ensure quality.” Oversight implies viewing the welder as he or she welds, which is an not efficient or effective form of quality control. Quality tests and checks are normally included to ensure quality and include 100% X-ray’s to ensure weld integrity. (PSE&G) (ETG)
COMMENT: We are in general agreement with the proposed depth of cover requirements at N.J.A.C. 14:7-1.12 for distribution mains, transmission pipelines and service lines which are installed after the effective date of this rule
RESPONSE: The Board appreciates the commenter’s support for the depth of cover requirements.
I would like to note that the commenting companies – South Jersey gas, AGL Resources, NJ Natural Gas, and PSE&G – are all part owners in PennEast Pipeline Company LLC and in fact collectively represent a majority ownership. These companies have stated on the record that they believe these regulations are sensible and improve public safety. As such I call for them to mandate that the PennEast pipeline, if approved, be built to these same standards that they have endorsed.