Lambertville East and Adelphia Gateway Pipeline FERC applications

In the past month pipeline companies have been busy in our area while FERC was distracted with its coal/nuke subsidy fight with the Department of Energy and the Trump Administration.  In particular, NJR has been moving forward with its potential “Plan B” alternative to PennEast, the Adelphia Gateway project.  And Texas Eastern is also charging forward with the Lambertville East project, a proposed upgrade of the compressor station on Rt. 179 in West Amwell.


NJR/Adelphia

First up, the NJR/Adelphia Gateway project (fully owned by New Jersey Resources) stealth-filed with FERC on Friday January 12th.  There were no press releases or announcements, just a  new docket popped up on the FERC site (which I found while developing a “new docket” scraping feature for Ferkee over the weekend).

The new docket is CP18-46-000.  The full application along with resource reports is here:

https://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/search/intermediate.asp?link_file=yes&doclist=14634543

Based on Adelphia’s documentation, the project is a bit more than the “no environmental impact” they’ve been touting to people to date.  Several laterals are proposed, along with new compressor stations and 8 blow down assemblies.

Most interesting to me – the identity of the project’s subscribers is not revealed anywhere in the public portion of the application.  Earlier NJR/Adelphia indicated that their open season got twice the proposed capacity – they proposed 250,000 dekatherms a day, and got bids for 500,000.  But we have no idea who bid.

In the application they say that the precedent agreements are still being worked on and will be filed with FERC.  But those likely will be filed as a “privileged” information, which you need to sign an NDA with Adelphia to see.  It seems NJR/Adelphia is trying to hide who the subscribers really are.

Why would they do that?

One theory is that the subscribers may be companies like Elizabethtown Gas, South Jersey Gas, UGI, and New Jersey Natural Gas.  Those names may ring a bell to you.

There will be comments on the docket demanding that the open season bidder identities be made public on the docket so we can see if this is another case of self-dealing, or if this pipeline project is a PennEast clone and constitutes over building (or, alternatively, PennEast’s owners believing their effort is doomed and doing this as a “Plan B” effort).

Either way, those following PennEast should be concerned about this as well.  In particular, imagine a worse case scenario where both NJR/Adelphia and PennEast get approved, with very similar pipeline routes paralleling each other and similar customers.  We have to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Everybody interested in this should get moving and intervene on the Adelphia docket. And hurry.  All signs indicate that NJR/Adelphia is trying to get this fast tracked.  They stealth-applied, and they indicate in the application they want to be approved and up and running this year.


Texas Eastern Lambertville East Project

Then there’s the Lambertville East project.  It’s FERC docket is CP18-26-000.  The full application along with resource reports is available here:

https://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/search/intermediate.asp?link_file=yes&doclist=14626092

This project may end up being a good thing for the area (with emphasis on may).  The current compressors are old, the area smells of gas all the time when you’re anywhere near the vicinity, and apparently emits dangerously high levels of noxious substances. The new compressors, while bigger, may be safer and emit less.

But – we need to look closely here.  I’d like to convince them to use electric compressors instead of natural gas, which will eliminate local emissions entirely and make the compressor station a much better neighbor to the poor people in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of West Amwell.  It’s also damn close to West Amwell Elementary and the Hunterdon South Branch library.

Also it’s possible Texas Eastern is up-playing some benefits and not talking about potential drawbacks.  We need to dive into the application in detail to see what’s being proposed here, and what the impacts really will be.

People should intervene on this docket as well to ensure their voices are heard.


Why Intervene?

On both matters I mention people and townships and groups who are in any way concerned or impacted by these two projects should intervene.  This is really important.  We’ve learned through PennEast and other projects that FERC only listens to and responds to intervenors on the Commission’s dockets.  Other non-intervenors are “welcome to comment” by FERC, but those comments seem to basically go into the circular file.

By intervening on a docket, you ensure that FERC has to listen to you and has to respond to your concerns.  While we may not like how FERC responds, making them work for it and make the effort is far better than being totally ignored.

 

 

 

 

Trying to decipher the new FERC chairman

bio_mcintyre_high

So I’ve heard people going back and forth on the new Chairman McIntyre at FERC and his call for a review of FERC’s 1999 policy statements. Some are (very) cautiously optimistic that this could be an opportunity to possibly reform FERC to some degree. Others think this is a transparent ploy by FERC to streamline their procedures even further and will turn the agency into the agency equivalent of fast food (“Your pipeline decision in 30 minutes or it’s free!”).
 
I think there’s merit to both sides. The new FERC Commissioner was the co-leader of the global Energy Practice at the law firm Jones Day, where he spent most of his legal career.  He’s represented clients before FERC, and is clearly an energy industry “insider”.

On the flip side, he’s a hard core lawyer, and has been involved a lot in actual litigation – rather like former Chairman Norman Bay.  He’s not an energy CEO or a regulator, which maybe counts for something.  Hard core technical lawyers are a different kind of beast than normal industry hacks.

A McIntyre Pipeline Case Before FERC

To try to get inside the man’s head, I decided to search the FERC docket for his cases.  Since he’s a lawyer who’s represented actions before FERC, it makes sense that he’d be on the docket.  And as it turns out, he is.  In the past 30 years, Mr. McIntyre has filed submissions to FERC dockets or been named in them 129 times.  The vast majority of those docket entries are on electric rate cases.  But there are a dozen or so natural gas pipeline submissions.

Among those submissions is this one from Mr. McIntyre from March 2012:
https://elibrary-backup.ferc.gov/idmws/common/opennat.asp?fileID=12914270

In this submission, Mr. McIntyre is arguing for his clients Chevron Corporation, who is protesting the Spectra Energy New Jersey – New York Expansion Project.  Yes, protesting.  The request itself is a “EMERGENCY MOTION TO HOLD PROCEEDINGS IN ABEYANCE AND FOR TECHNICAL CONFERENCE”.

Specifically, Mr. McIntyre claims in his submission that Spectra Energy and FERC are ignoring important, in some cases vital, information in it’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, from McIntyre’s client Chevron.  He claims that the level of ignorance is so bad that the proceedings be immediately put into abeyance, and a technical conference convened for Spectra, FERC, and Chevron to debate the issues at hand e.g. stop everything!

In the opening paragraph, he states:

“the result may be the issuance of a Final Environmental Impact Statement addressing a Project route that not only no longer represents the current intentions of the parties (as discussed herein), but also carries significant risks of profound environmental damage to the land and public waters of New Jersey – hence this Emergency Motion.”

Note: the emphasis there is not mine but was added by Mr. McIntyre.  The site in question is described in this way:

“the Chevron site is both a remediation and redevelopment site and is under the guidance of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) for remediation of petroleum constituents to support residential redevelopment.6 Constituents of concern include benzene, non-aqueous phase liquids and lead, resulting from the site’s past use as a Texaco petroleum terminal/lube blending facility and General/Pirelli cable manufacturing facility.”

Mr. McIntyre then speaks to the wholly inadequate response of Spectra Energy to Chevron’s environmental concerns at the site:

“Although subsequent filings by Spectra suggested to the Commission that Chevron’s serious environmental concerns have been resolved, that is simply not the case. Notwithstanding the optimistic words set forth in Spectra’s filings and data request responses, the profound and significant environmental issues raised by Chevron remain completely unresolved.”

After this a number of issues and concerns are detailed in the motion.  All these concerns were filed with FERC.  But instead of responding to Chevron’s concerns, McIntyre says this happened instead:

“Although Spectra filed a response to various parties’ comments on the DEIS, Spectra expressly refrained from responding to Chevron’s comments and environmental concerns.15 Instead, Spectra indicated to the Commission that Spectra and Chevron would meet to resolve those concerns.16

[….]

In its response, Spectra averred that the Chevron alternative was not viable, and once again, Spectra implicitly assured the Commission Staff and the Commission that Chevron’s grave environmental concerns with the Project route would be resolved:

To date, Spectra has never responded to Chevron’s DEIS comments. Nor has Spectra ever provided information on these matters sufficient to enable the Commission Staff or the Commission to be properly cognizant of, let alone to meaningfully assess, the profound environmental risks involved with the DEIS-described route.”

Is this starting to sound familiar?


The saga continues.  Rather than acknowledge the potential issue, Spectra comes out and asks for their application to be expedited instead!

“Spectra responded to the Staff’s scheduling notice. Rather than recognize the legitimate need of the Staff for additional time to permit a thorough environmental analysis, particularly in light of changes to the proposed Project route, Spectra instead filed a response urging that the environmental review be expedited – and that a certificate for the Project be issued by “March or early April” 2012.24 Nowhere in Spectra’s filing did it respond to the environmental concerns raised by Chevron in October 2011.25 Nor did Spectra – in the course of asking that the environmental analysis of the Project be accelerated – inform the Commission or the Staff that no resolution had been reached regarding a safe route for the Project across the Chevron site.26

McIntyre’s motion goes on to outline the specific relief they want (basically: FERC should force Spectra to acknowledge these issues and deal with them BEFORE the Final EIS is issued, not at some hand-wavey later date).

Ultimately, FERC ignored McIntyre’s motion, and it went completely against him.  FERC  did exactly what we would expect – in the Certificate Order for the NJ-NY Expansion project, FERC set condition 20:

“20. Prior to construction between Mileposts 5.68R and 8.60R, Texas Eastern shall file with the Secretary for review and written approval by the Director of OEP, a site-specific plan addressing the concerns of Texaco Downstream Properties, Inc. and Chevron Land and Development Company (collectively, Chevron) about the slurry wall, groundwater contamination, and the timing of construction activities. This plan shall:
a. include a diagram verifying the actual separation between the bottom of the slurry wall and the top of the horizontal directional drill (HDD) alignment;
b. include provisions for a pre- and post-construction assessment of the slurry wall’s integrity;
c. include monitoring of the Kill Van Kull during construction for benzene- contaminated groundwater and include mitigation measures to contain and control any potential release of contaminated water into the river;
d. describe the measures that will be implemented to avoid adverse impacts on Chevron’s mitigation plans; and
e. discuss how conflicts between pipeline construction and site remediation work will be managed if Chevron will be conducting its next remediation phase at the same time the pipeline will be constructed.

This condition basically says “Hey, try to work out this spat with Chevron, OK?”.  And that’s about it.  And hey, if you release benzene, please let us know!

Conclusion?

As I mentioned, Mr. McIntyre is pretty light on the FERC docket on pipeline matters.  Nearly all of his arguments are on electric rate cases with very few exceptions.  But his work on  the Chevron/Spectra Energy dispute and his submission to the docket on behalf of Chevron makes a few things clear.  He knows, from his own experience, that FERC ignores major environmental issues, even from energy industry executives and colleagues.  He knows FERC never gives in to any request, no matter how reasonable, to look at certain critical issues or to delay proceedings.  He has seen how FERC prepares totally incomplete Final Environmental Impact Statements, and uses conditions in the Certificate Order as a band aid to fix it.

Maybe this experience means nothing to Mr. McIntyre, and he could care less about the Chevron case and its outcome.  Maybe he is just another industry hack who’s part of the FERC revolving door with industry.  Maybe we’re all screwed when they start reviewing the 1999 FERC policy statements.

Or maybe – just maybe – there’s a glimmer of Norman Bay in Mr. McIntyre.  And maybe a hard-core technical nerd of a lawyer like he’s demonstrated to be chafes somewhere deep down inside at all of the screwed up stuff FERC does on a routine basis.  Maybe.

I don’t expect miracles.  I think the policy statement review will likely end up being a disaster for people who are against the explosion of irresponsible pipeline development in the country.  Most likely they will move to streamline the hell out of the regulations and make it easier to push pipeline through.

But maybe – maybe – maybe there is a silver lining in here.  Perhaps there is a positive way through this mess, if we can see our way through the maze.  Before we pre-condemn Mr. McIntyre, why don’t we do everything we can to move him in the right direction and make FERC a federal agency that is actually responsible and responsive. Let’s hope that the public is invited as stakeholders in this review, and if so let’s ensure our comments on FERC are heard loud and clear, along with ways to fix them.

Call for Commissioner Chatterjee to removed from FERC

ChatterjeeFBPage

Today I’ve submitted a comment to the FERC docket asking that, in light of Commissioner Chatterjee’s actions and words, he be removed from his position as FERC Commissioner.  See submission below:

Remove Commissioner Chatterjee for ethics violations at FERC

The submission is also on the FERC PennEast pipeline docket below:

https://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20171207-5017

It is clear Comissioner Chatterjee is biased and is unable to fulfill his duties as a fair and impartial commissioner under FERC regulations and ethics guidelines.

Please submit your protests to this outrageous situation on all FERC dockets you are involved in. Send FERC a message that is not acceptable for a FERC Commissioner (then Chariman) to not only mock and belittle opposition to items before their commission, but to actually thank others for trolling their social media pages on his behalf.  Below is one screen shot of many at part of the complaint that were pulled from Commissioner Chatterjee’s public Facebook page earlier this week.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 1.05.26 PM

FERC Chairman likes to demean pipeline protests in public

Update: Changed post title to indicate Cromwell was not an intervenor but was a protestor on Mountain valley.

Like our President, FERC interim Chairman Neil Chatterjee likes social media, and simply revels in trolling people.  We’ll see if this stays public or not.   Here is his Facebook profile:

https://www.facebook.com/neil.chatterjee.9

If his profile or the thread does not stay public, will post screen shots of it.  The Chairman of FERC is basically engaging in frat boy mocking of a FERC protestor.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fneil.chatterjee.9%2Fposts%2F10214457065877966&width=500

The one difference between the President and Mr. Chatterjee, though, is that the President has immunity from most laws.

The FERC Chairman, on the other hand, does not. And is bringing personal attacks against intervenors and people who have legal matters before his commission.  Here are screen shots

 

 

Here is an earlier thread (“Boyo”).

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 1.14.24 PM.jpg

 

 

Announcement: Alpha trials of Ferkee Alert! System

As we get closer and closer to a possible decision from FERC on the PennEast pipeline project, I’ve been gorging on FERC decisions to look for patterns and try to gain an understanding of what is common practice for FERC (and what isn’t).  To help automate this, I developed the Ferkee Alert! system (or just Ferkee for short).  What Ferkee does is scrape the ferc.gov web site hunting for new Pipeline decisions.  These could be certificate orders, or acceptance/denial of rehearing on a pipeline application, or similar major order from FERC.  When one pops into the system, an email alert is sent out that looks like this:

FerkeeAlertSample

This works kind of like the eLibrary system for FERC, but it covers all natural gas pipeline decisions.  Alerts happen within 60 seconds or less of being posted on the ferc site.  For each new decision found, it prints the docket number, a link to the full decision, and the text of the first page of the order.

The above example shows two types of orders.  The first on docket CP17-24-000, shows an order of FERC changing a Certificate order and Presidential Permit.  In this case the pipeline company asked for an amendment to increase the size of its system – FERC of course said “sure thing, rock on dudes!”.

The second on docket CP16-486-000 is a Certificate Order for the Millennium Pipeline Eastern System Upgrade Project.  If/when a decision on PennEast happens, the alert will look like this but on the PennEast docket number CP15-558-000.

This is currently experimental alpha-level software still under development.  If you’d like to be a trial user, shoot an email to ferkeebot@gmail.com and we’ll sign you up.  Future versions will allow self-service signup, more control over the kind of decisions you get alerts on, and alternative alert channels (e.g. maybe texts).

Many thanks to Lorraine Crown for coming up with the name Ferkee, it’s a perfect fit!

The De-Emphasis of PennEast continues

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 11.21.24 AM

Today New Jersey Resources, a part PennEast owner and the biggest shipper on the project, held their Fiscal year 2017 earnings call.  The call and associated presentation is available here:

http://investor.njresources.com/eventdetail.cfm?EventID=186190

The call confirmed a few things for us:

  1. NJR confirmed slippage on PennEast yet again. They are now saying it will be in-service in “2019”, with no guidance on exactly when in 2019 it will happen.
  2. More importantly – there were no dedicated slides on PennEast.  Just a few mentions here and there in the presentation.  On the earnings call, it was even more stark – PennEast just got two quick sentences about them waiting for FERC approval and the 2019 inservice expectation.
  3. The focus of the call and the presentation was on the new Adelphia Gateway project NJR surprise-announced recently.  Adelphia Gateway is an oil pipeline NJR bought for $156 million, they intend to repurpose it as a natural gas pipeline and extend it down to Philadelphia.

This Adelphia project is now being touted as NJR’s big growth push, with its own dedicated slides and push from the executive management team.  They emphasized on the call and in the presentation that the project has “Minimal impact on the environment” and that there are “no anticipated impacts to wetlands or farmlands”.  They emphasized on the call that they’re just re-using an existing pipe so there is almost no construction involved with it at all.

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 11.29.28 AM

I wonder why they’re suddenly focusing so much on minimal environmental and farmland impacts?  Could it be – perhaps – that they’ve had problems in those areas in some other pipeline projects?

What’s also interesting about this project is that it seems to mirror a recent move by South Jersey Industries, another PennEast owner.  SJI announced out of the blue that they were buying Elizabethtown Gas.  And it really was out of the blue – all the financial analysts who cover SJI were caught completely by surprise by the move.  Out of no where SJI is touting this new growth opportunity.  And suddenly not talking so much about PennEast.  Incidentally their stock tanked because it looks like they were over paying for Elizabethtown.  Kind of like they were desperate for an alternative to PennEast, and paid a premium for a competitor instead.

Likewise, on the NJR call, one of the analysts asked about how the Adelphia Gateway project came about, and the midstream executive admitted the pipeline had been on the market for awhile now.  It looks like NJR may have been the only bidder on a pipe that’s been unwanted by anyone else.  Kind of like NJR was desperate for an alternative to PennEast.

So here’s your pattern:

  1. PSEG pulls out of PennEast
  2. SJI acquires eTown gas out of the blue and touts it as their new growth opportunity
  3. NJR announces Adelphia Gateway out of the blue, touts it as their new growth opportunity and oh-by-the-way-no-environmental-impact.

Seems to me some PennEast owners aren’t all that sure about PennEast’s future.