Something to do while we’re flattening the curve

By now we probably all know about “flattening the curve” – being smart in our interactions with others, cleaning constantly, social distancing wherever possible.  Basically the whole country is stuck at home looking for things to do.

Lucky for you, FERC and PennEast have given you the perfect activity to do at home!  FERC has opened a 30 day comment period on the new PennEast “abbreviated” application amendment (you know, the Phase1 PA, Phase 2 NJ thing).  This comment period ends at 5:00pm Eastern Time on March 30, 2020.  That gives us 15 days left to get comments on the docket.  Why not do a comment a day to keep the coronavirus blues away?

Remember, the new docket is CP20-47-000.  We are looking to get as many comments as we can on the docket to demonstrate that opposition to PennEast remains strong.  To give you some ideas, the Citizens Against the Pipeline (CAP) grassroots organizations across NJ and PA have put together some example comments.  Please feel free to submit these, or make comments of your own on the FERC docket CP20-47-000.

So let’s bring on the examples!


Not an Amendment, A New Project.  

PennEast’s proposal must be treated as a new project, not an amendment to an existing certificate.  PennEast’s attempt to amend its certificate in this manner is in clear violation of the Natural Gas Act (NGA).

PennEast is claiming that both Phase 1 and Phase 2 have independent utility but that issue needs to be explored and proven in a new application since this was not considered in the original application. Phase 1 clearly does not have required independent utility as required under the Natural Gas Act (NGA). It does not show economic justification nor protect the consumer to meet the NGA criteria of being in the “public interest”.



INSIDE DEALING and NEED

How can PennEast claim that Phase 1 is independently viable when 85% of their contracted capacity is with New Jersey local distribution companies but the proposed capacity does not reach New Jersey?

On top of this, PennEast attempted to hide the fact that all of the shippers for Phase 1 are wholly owned subsidiaries of PennEast’s owning companies from the public.

PennEast has not proven there is a need for the Phase I portion of the project. They only have Shippers for 52% of the capacity of the pipeline and all of them are affiliates of PennEast.


RADICAL SHIFT in FLOWS

PennEast’s original Certificate filing had roughly 990,000 dekatherms/day of subscribed capacity, with the endpoints described for each subscription.  This included substantial deliveries into NJ. The abbreviated filing now includes 213,000 Dekatherms/day flowing into NJ, presumably via the Adelphia pipeline interconnects.  PennEast does not indicate how this 213,000 dekatherms/day is related to the original subscriptions in the Certificate filing, nor does it specify endpoints. This means that PennEast needs to file an entirely new Purpose and Need statement for Phase 1 and Phase 2, it needs to identify what the endpoints are, and it needs to define what subscriptions apply to Phase 1, and what apply to Phase 2. Without this information, the abbreviated filing cannot be accepted by FERC, as the purpose and need calculations have fundamentally changed.


EMINENT DOMAIN and PURPOSE and NEED

FERC’s policy statement on determining Purpose and Need states explicitly that the commission must view purpose and need proportionally with the amount of eminent domain exercised within a project.  That is, the greater the amount of eminent domain that will be applied within a project, the stronger the purpose and need has to be justify the takings. At the time FERC issued a Certificate to PennEast on docket CP15-558-000, it did not appear to take eminent domain takings into account when determining purpose and need.  However, it is feasible that FERC believed that in the end PennEast would be able to negotiate with a substantial number of landowners in the final hour and avoid eminent domain court in most cases. We know now that is not the case. In fact, PennEast almost immediately filed 198 separate eminent domain cases once it was granted its Certificate.  148 of those cases were in the NJ portion of the route, and represent a staggering 50% of the total route. This means that FERC is now fully aware that Phase 2 of this abbreviated filing would involve 50% eminent domain. Since this is now an established fact, FERC must re-evaluate its purpose and need decision, and determine if the benefits of the Phase 2 project outweigh the outright decimation of property rights by needing to condemn fully half of the route.  It is clear that the weak statement of “need” by PennEast cannot justify condemning such a large number of properties, and that FERC must thereby reject this application.



REGIONAL OVERBUILDING

PennEast was always unneeded but is even more so now that an additional four billion, fifty-five million cubic feet per day of capacity (4.055 Bcfd38) has been added to pipelines in, running to, or running through, Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey since the original application filing. There was sufficient capacity at the time of the original application’s filing, and now that has dramatically increased to a massive glut of capacity. Old, out-of-date, self-dealing precedent agreements do not justify demand or qualify as proof of public need.


PHASE 1 OVERBUILDING

While PennEast claims independent utility for Phase 1 of the pipeline, it does not justify anywhere the 36” pipe size.  With only 338,000 dekatherms/day subscribed to in Phase 1, it would appear on its face that a 36” pipe would represent over building on the part of PennEast.  Consumers should not bear the construction costs and rate burden of a 36” pipeline if a pipeline of that size is not actually required in Phase 1. This is especially concerning as PennEast has stated explicitly that Phase 2 may never be built.  This would result in stranded unused capacity being paid for by consumers, with violates a critical FERC mandate.


PHASE 2 OVERSIZED

With 213,000 dekatherms/day of capacity proposed to flow to NJ through the Adelphia pipeline in phase 1, the sizing of Phase 2 is now in serious doubt.  A large portion of the gas that “required” a 36” greenfield pipeline to be built in NJ may now be flowing through Adelphia and connecting to NJ in Phase 1.  As a result, the Phase 2 pipeline sizing almost certainly represents overbuilding on the part of PennEast. As a result, FERC must deny this abbreviated application.



JURISDICTION and Condemnation RIghts

SInce the 2018 Certificate is currently under review by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the FERC Commission lacks jurisdiction to modify it. Simply put, under the Natural Gas Act (NGA), FERC does not have authority to alter the certificate while the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals still has jurisdiction.


CONCEALING NJ Issues

In its abbreviated filing, PennEast states that its delays are due to issues with getting its “New Jersey Authorizations”.  This is not in fact the case. The true issue facing PennEast is that the 3rd circuit court of appeals has barred PennEast from bringing 42 suits against the State of NJ in Federal condemnation court.  Due to the 3rd circuit ruling, PennEast cannot legally obtain rights and build on those 42 properties. Those properties total about 9.2 miles of the ROW, which represents approximately 20% of the route on the Phase 2 proposal within NJ.  This means that PennEast is legally barred from ever creating its Phase 2 route. For this reason this abbreviated application must be denied.


ENVIRONMENT

The phases in the application all pose significant environmental harms that must be considered by the Commission when determining public interest.  All of the phases’ harms must be independently weighed against its purported (nonexistent) need to determine public interest for each phase. This includes a cumulative EIS of Phase 1, including the new Church Road Interconnect, and a reevaluation of all potential HDD drilling impacts that current scientific and industry data demonstrate has been significantly underestimated. The industry acknowledged 50% failure rate of HDD must be accounted for in assessing the impact to wetlands, streams, and animal habitat.



NEPA

The FERC commission failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and perform a complete EIS for PennEast’s 2015 project and therefore did not correctly weigh the public benefits and costs of the project.

 

If the pipe don’t fit PennEast must quit!

 

My most recent PennEast comment on their two phased approach appears below.  Basically, PennEast screwed the pooch royally.  Their Adelphia Connection, which will flow a lot of gas into NJ, invalidates the original application’s assumptions.

 


My name is Michael Spille.  I am an abutter to the Certificated pipeline route and the route filed on this docket as well, and am also an intervenor in these proceedings.  I am hereby filing this comment within the scoping period for the Environmental Assessment (“EA”) on this docket.

I.    STATEMENT OF RELEVANT FACTS

On January 19, 2018, FERC granted an Order Issuing Certificates to PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC (“PennEast”) on docket CP15-558-000.  This included 990,000 dekatherms/day subscribed to by the shippers.  Of this amount, 735,000 dekatherms/day was subscribed to by subsidiaries of PennEast’s owning owning company.

On January 30th, 2020, PennEast filed an Abbreviated Application to Amend their Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. It claimed 340,000 of capacity was subscribed to for Phase 1, but did not reveal the identities of the shippers.  However, in an Answer from PennEast filed on Feb 26, 2020, PennEast does finally reveal the identity of the shippers.  They are New Jersey Natural Gas, South Jersey Gas, UGI Energy Services, and Elizabethtown Gas.   These shippers also have capacity agreements for the original application on the CP15-558-000 docket. 

PennEast does not indicate if these subscriptions are additive to the original application (e.g. 1.1 million dekatherms/day + 340,000 dekatherms/day) or subtractive (e.g. 1.1 million dekatherms/day – 340,000 dekatherms/day).  Alternatively you can look at the full Phase 1 volume the same way (adding or subtracting 650,000 dekatherms/day to the original 1.1 million dekatherms/day).  PennEast makes it clear that delivery into NJ in phase 1 will occur via its newly proposed connection to the Adelphia Gateway pipeline.  PennEast also claims that it will soon have shippers for the remaining 310 dekatherms/day of unsubscribed capacity on phase I.

II.    STATEMENT OF ISSUES

  1. PennEast’s application has a fatal flaw in its application with the revelation that the Phase 1 shippers are the same.  If these subscriptions are indicative of new volume above and beyond the originally proposed 1.1 million dekatherms/day, then the Phase I and Phase II pipelines as proposed to do not work.  Because that would imply the need for 1.44 million dekatherms/day or more.  
  2. If the subscriptions are subtractive (e.g. they should be reduced from the 1.1 dekatherms/day of the whole project), then PennEast’s entire design in NJ is incorrect.  That’s because the gas for NJNG  (180,000 dekatherms/day), SJG (75,000 dekatherms/day), and Elizabethtown Gas (33,000 dekatherms/day) that originally was going to flow on PennEast, under the Delaware River and into NJ, will now flow into NJ via the Adelphia Pipeline.  
  3. It should be noted that NJNG’s subscription of 180,000 dekatherms/day on this abbreviated filing matches its commitment on the original application.  This argues very strongly that it is subtractive.  
  4. SJG’s 75,000 dekatherms/day commitment is not equal to its commitment on the original application (which is 105,000 dekatherms/day). but is fairly close.  It certainly seems unlikely that SJG needs another 75K on top of its commitment of 105K.  
  5. Assuming that this volume is subtractive, this would mean that a bare minimum of 213,000 dekatherms/day will be flowing into NJ via Adelphia and not directly via PennEast.  That number could be higher, as we do not know who PennEast is negotiating with for the remaining 310,000 dekatherms/day of capacity.
  6. Whether the Phase 1 shippers are additive or subtractive is irrelevant in the end, because either way it means the overall capacity numbers are wrong.  The Adelphia connection changes everything.  If the Phase 1 shippers are additive, then Phase 1 is sized too small to be able to carry the full load of Phase 1 + Phase 2 (Phase 2 could be too small as well).   If the Phase 1 shippers are subtractive, then the NJ portion is overbuilt.  In fact it’s entirely possible that the Phase 2 section is also the wrong length with the wrong interconnects, because some of them are likely satisfied already via Phase I (in particular NJNG’s).  
  7. As a result, given that a substantial amount of gas would flow into NJ via Adelphia Gateway, PennEast’s 2-phase application is completely incorrect and must be rejected.  The completely unaltered nature of Phase 2 from the original Certificate cannot stand in this abbreviated application due to the volumes of gas shipping into Adelphia.  

NJDEP Pauses PennEast Application, says it is not Administratively Complete

Yesterday, the NJDEP sent a letter to PennEast indicating that their combined land use application was not administratively complete.  It included a laundry list of deficiencies in the application.  It has given PennEast 30 days to complete their application.  If they do not provide the materials in that time frame it will be “administratively closed” by DEP.

See the letter below.

Admin-Def-PennEast-9-4-19

 

NJDEP Application Highlights Part 5 – HDD Plans and Maps

Today we’re showing maps and plans for some of the biggest and most difficult Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) sites in NJ along the route.

Many thanks to Lorraine Crowne and Alix Bacon who shared these electronically.

Overview

HDD Appendix A – Summary and Inadvertent Return Plan

Delaware River HDD Documents

Map of Delaware River HDD Crossing Plan

Delaware River HDD Crossing Design and Report

Nishisakawick Creek HDD Documents

Nishisakawick Creek HDD Crossing Plan Map

Nishisakawick HDD Plans and Bores

Wickecheoke HDD Documents

Wickecheoke HDD Site Plan Map

Wickehceoke HDD Plans and Bores

Alexauken HDD Documents

Alexauken Creek HDD Site Plan Map

Alexauken Creek HDD Plans and Bores

 

NJDEP Application Highlights Part 4 – So called “Alternatives” Analysis

So far looking through the NJDEP app, I’m struck by a few things:

  1. Useless stuff.  PennEast has a lot of useless crud in many ears.  Like the initial “Wetlands” maps that are useless for any real purpose.
  2. Copy’n’Paste.  Most of the application is copy and paste, over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.
  3. Survey Data seems real.  Some of the survey data seems solid.  I haven’t done a comprehensive review of it, and I’m not an expert in most of these areas, but it seems to be hang together and matches people’s experience in their own back yards so to speak.  So there is a solid baseline here.  Which is good for us – the baseline is this project will be horrible for water quality and wetlands in NJ.That said I’m not sure about the endangered species surveys.  That looks pretty rocky to me.
  4. PennEast analysis is crap.  PennEast’s analysis in many areas such as alternatives is horrible.  It’s contradictory, cherry picked, sometimes erroneous, and lacks consistency across attachments and appendices.  It looks very hastily thrown together to meet an internal deadline.  Probably because it was hastily thrown together to meet an internal deadline.  Most of the information is dated May, June, or July of this year.
  5. Most FERC alternative routes are ignored.  This application does not discuss most FERC-presented alternatives.  It has really weird variations on some of those FERC alternatives that seem wholly manufactured to scare the DEP.  And also seem to be crafted in such a way as to look as bad as possible (despite the proposed route being horrendous in and of itself).  PennEast just like literally made up random alternatives to try to impress the DEP.

So that’s my thoughts so far.  Now onto some of their so-called “analysis”.

West Amwell “Green Acres” Alternative

I don’t know why they call it this, but they do this consistently in many areas.  The “Green Acres” alternative is actually mostly the old 2014 original PennEast route that is far to the East of the current one.

Attachment K – Appendix B – West Amwell Green Acres Alternative

West Amwell Green Acres Alternative Map

As I said, this “alternative” is roughly along the lines of the 2014 route.  Except that it’s not really.  For some unfathomable reason, PennEast chose to just show roads in the general vicinity of the 2014 route as “the route”.  I don’t know if they lost their old maps or what, but it does not match the 2014 route when you zoom in.

Worse, PennEast claims this route is “longer” than the proposed route.  You know how they got there?  By including a mile from the main line to the Lambertville Compressor Station (marked Page 1-3 in the overview map).   In reality, this route is not longer because the current route has a lateral to the compressor station exactly where this “alternate” route starts.  Yes, PennEast basically manipulated the “alternative” to make it look worse than it is (shocking I know).

The analysis is worse.

The alternative route crosses 10 wetlands vs. 29 wetlands for the current proposed route.

The alternative crosses 16 water bodies vs 32 waterbodies for the current route.

The traffic closures are all bogus and made up by PennEast.

They forgot to mention West Amwell Elementary and the child care site on 179 in the proposed current route when talking about schools.

Holland Gravel Hill “2” Alternative

An alternative discussed around Gravel Hill.

Attachment K – Appendix B – Gravel Hill Alternative

Gravel Hill 2 Alternative Map

Again, I don’t know how they picked this alternative.  It again seems to be designed to scare the DEP.  Somehow the alternative is 1.5x more expensive.

More interestingly, the current route is projected to take 2 weeks to construct.  The alternative route is projected to take 3 months.  What the hell?!

Both routes have horrendous Endangered Species impacts.

Lambertville Compressor Station Alternate Route

This is a really weird “alternative” that seems to go out of its way to go under a road for a few hundred feet near the Lambertville Compressor Station.

Attachment K – Appendix B – Lambertville Compressor Station Alternative

Lambertville Compressor Station Alternate Map

PennEast seems to have crossed its wires and had a small brain meltdown on this one.  It’s 0.4 miles but claims it’ll cost $6.9 million to $12 million dollars to build, and imagines water body crossings that do not exist.

The talk about closing Route 179 to dig trench it up (without explaining why they need to trench up 179 at all).  But then they say the current route will open cut “Old 518” and “Hewitt Road).  Well, I’m pissed that they’re going to open cut my road, but more importantly Hewitt Road and Old Route 518 West are 3.5 miles from this site.

Baldpate Alternative

Here is Ye Olde alternative to the current Baldpate route.

Attachment K – Appendix B – Baldpate Alternative

Baldpate Alternative Map

This is another bizarre alternative that seems to try to run everything under roadways.  Basically they are proposing to rip up Valley Road, Pleasant Valley Road, and a piece of Bear Tavern Road (!) to accomplish this.

Some details are of course wrong or left out.  For example, it dings the alternative for going near Howell Living History farm, but neglects to mention the original route does that too.

Hopewell Green Acres 1-1 Alternative

This one is in the vicinity of Pennington Titusville Road.

Attachment K – Appendix B – Hopewell Green Acres 1-1 Alternative

Hopewell Green Acres 1-1 Alternative Map

This is another one that bizarrely digs up a piece of a road for a few thousand feet for no apparent reason.

 

NJDEP Application Highlights – Hopewell Site Assessments

This installment highlights the Attachment G1 maps and wetlands/waterbody regulated crossings in Hopewell Township.

This starts at Goat Hill Road and then traverses South East along the PennEast route e.g. Baldpate, Bear Tavern Road, Scotch Road, etc in order.

NJDEP Application Attachment G1 – Hopewell Part 1 (Goat Hill)

NJDEP Application Attachment G1 – Hopewell Part 2

NJDEP Application Attachment G1 – Hopewell Part 3

NJDEP Application Attachment G1 – Hopewell Part 4

NJDEP Application Attachment G1 – Hopewell Part 5