NOTE: There are many links from this site to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission web site (ferc.gov). Unfortunately ferc.gov is fairly unreliable and is down many nights and weekends. FERC also provides a “backup” library site, and it seems only one or the other will be up at any given time. As such I’ve provided links to both sites in the blog posts. If you get “Host not found” or similar error try the alternate link.
This is a blog about the PennEast Pipeline that is proposed to run through eastern PA and western NJ. This is a 3 foot wide monster which is projected to send 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas PER DAY under high pressure from the Marcellus shale regions in Pennsylvania to a terminus near Trenton, NJ.
I’m a resident of West Amwell, NJ, and the current likely route of the pipeline is projected to be within a few hundred feet of my property – literally across the street.
You can see the current proposed route here in google maps:
Note that the purple lines are showing a 400′ wide “survey corridor”, the actual pipeline easement could be anywhere within that 400′. During construction that corridor will shrink to around 100′, and the final easement will be 50′ wide.
In any case my purpose here is not to talk about me, but to highlight the stories of many people who are opposing this pipeline, and to show the human cost this project is going to have at people in the region. To that aim I’ve been scouring the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s web site dedicated to comments on this project. FERC has the ultimate jurisdiction in deciding whether or not PennEast can build this pipeline, and part of their process is allowing for public comments from any interested party.
I’ll be highlighting the comments I found most memorable, particularly ones that tell what this pipeline is going to do to people’s families, their properties, their lives, and in many cases their legacies. I’ll also pass along any information that might help other gauge how this pipeline is going to impact them.
If you’d like to contact me you can reach me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
9 thoughts on “About”
3 questions were generated from last Thursdays meeting in Lambertville.
Question #1 – Venting of natural gas pipelines was discussed. Do all natural gas pipelines vent or does this occur only at the “Transfer Stations”? Are there “vents” installed that facilitate this process? These VOC particulates are vented to surrounding atmosphere – are there air quality tests that can be administered by those effected?
Question #2 – The pressures of the Penn East pipeline are claimed to be much higher than any other NJ natural gas pipeline. Who is monitoring them to make sure the pressures they intend to use are within safe limits and that they are using the proper materials and “thickness” to ensure safety to accommodate these higher pressures? And has the natural gas industry done any studies that show how much increased corrosion occurs as these pressures increase. I would imagine that a pipeline that has increased pressures would equate to increased corrosion and would require repair and replacement sooner – has Penn East addressed these issues of how often they will be replacing the pipeline as age & wear becomes an issue?
Question #3 – NJ Department of Public Utilities requires that natural gas pipelines us a Class 4 thickness of pipe and Penn East is on the record as saying they will be using a thinner Class 2 pipe to build their pipeline…they claim that the “low density” of the population along the pipeline doesn’t warrant using the thicker Class 4 pipe. Why are they not being held to NJ Standards and wouldn’t the fact that they are using a higher pressure also warrant using the thicker, sturdier pipe?
Gaetan, these are all great questions.
#1, on venting. Venting occurs regularly at compressor stations, which you refer to as Transfer Stations above. Compressor stations are where they compress the gas up to the PSI desired and send it on its way to its destination. The vent regularly for maintenance and other reasons, and also sometimes need to do an emergency venting. You can experience this yourself if you drive by Mt. Airy on Route 179, there is a compressor station there for the Texas Eastern natural gas line. You can routinely smell natural gas around there just by driving through at 50 mph.
In addition to that, gas pipelines do often leak due to flaws and lack of maintenance.
There are tests for this, but it’s a battle between the pipeline companies and agencies like NJDEP and PIMSA. Often the air quality tests are only done infrequently, and violations get a slap on the wrist, not systemic change.
#2, on increased pressure. PennEast is indeed at the top of the pressure scale at 1480 psi, and near the top in terms of size at 36″ (the largest I am aware of are 42″).
The monitoring and auditing is almost entirely done via self-regulation e.g. the pipeline companies regulate themselves. PIMSA is the primary agency in charge of pipeline safety, but they have very few actual inspectors or employees and are simply overwhelmed. They almost entirely rely on the pipeline companies to tell the truth about the material they’re using, that they meet the required standards, and for regular monitoring of systems.
I don’t know of any studies about increased wear and corrosion from higher pressures. But in general, they look at repair or replacement on the scale of many decades. It’s extraordinarily infrequent.
#3, on Class Locations and Class 2 vs. Class 4. Here we have Federal regulations coming in conflict with State ones. The Federal regulations came about in the 50s and 60s, and are basically based on actuarial tables. Less population density means less consequence of failure, so they can save money by using less safe pipe. It literally means that individual lives don’t matter, it only matters if many people are harmed from an incident.
The Federal regulations are widely acknowledged as inferior, and many states (including NJ) have much stricter regulations as you cite. In NJ, you have to use Class 4 pipeline everywhere for intrastate pipeline projects.
Unfortunately, PennEast is an interstate pipeline, and federal regulations take precedent over state ones. So PennEast does not have to adhere to NJ standards. The issue is similar to that of interstate highways, states can have their own speed limit but can’t put restrictions on federal highways. Likewise, states can have their own pipeline standards but they don’t apply to federally regulated pipeline projects.
So we are stuck with Class 2 pipe in most of the locations. In fact, Class 4 is not used ANY portion of the route in NJ. And more troubling, the published plans show them using Class 1 in many spots. PennEast says to ignore that, and they “pledge” to use a minimum of Class 2 everywhere, but I see no reason to take them at their word. If they really meant to use Class 2 everywhere their construction plans should reflect that.
Hope this helps, and feel free to email at email@example.com if you want to discuss in more depth.
Thank You Mike for your thorough explanation to my questions, albeit, not very comforting as the Federal regulations and self-regulated industry doesn’t inspire confidence that Penn East will go above and beyond to ensure they build a safe Pipeline.
great blog thank you for all the information including about venting: https://thecostofthepipeline.com/about/
A gas line broke in Salem Township on 5/12/18 it took over 5 hours to turn in off. I was on gun club road .