Another piece of the puzzle slides into place

tl;dr – PennEast pipeline partner AGL Resources is working with Transco pipeline company to bring PennEast gas to Georgia.

Full post….

Many people pointed to the participation of Elizabethtown Gas in the PennEast pipeline project as proof that this pipeline was being built to benefit the people of New Jersey.  I mean, hey, this is a local natural gas company, clearly they’re going to use it to lower gas prices in the state.  Right?

Well, as it turns out things are not always what they seem. When PennEast does non-official presentations to the public or the press they play up the Elizabethtown Gas angle. However, if you look at their official filings you’ll note that Elizabethtown Gas is not mentioned. Instead, their parent company, AGL Resources, are the actual company of record that’s involved with PennEast.

But that’s just a technicality, right?

Well, no, as it turns out that makes a big difference. While Elizabethtown Gas is a local company, AGL Resources is not. According to their web site AGL resources is in fact “the largest natural gas-only distribution company in the United States”.

And their plans for PennEast look to be quite a bit bigger than providing gas to NJ.

Williams, the owner of the Transco pipeline network, announced that they are working in cooperation with AGL Resources to expand their pipeline capacity to get more gas flowing from Mercer County, NJ to the south east. Their press release is here.

The purpose of this project is to get Marcellus shale gas from Transco’s Mercer County interconnect down to Georgia. On its end Transco will be beefing up the compressor stations along the route to deliver more gas at higher pressures along existing pipelines. AGL is partnering with them to build another 111 mile pipeline to connect into this infrastructure.

The kicker of course is that the “Marcellus Gas” Transco and AGL are talking about will be coming from the PennEast pipeline. The Mercer County interconnect is where the PennEast pipeline terminates in Hopewell Township, NJ. The pipeline that was being built to “benefit consumers and businesses in PA and NJ” is yet again being proven to not benefit our states at all.

And what this also shows is the knock-on effects these pipelines will have. Pipelines will beget more pipelines. Companies will be motivated to upgrade existing infrastructure. More and more infrastructure will be built out to get this gas where they can make the most money out of it.

And once the Marcellus region is played out, all those pipes will be useless.

Analyzing the shale production market

I’ve done a number of posts analyzing the natural gas market and looking at where all this production could possibly go. To that end I’ve been using the production numbers to show how it’s driving a push to get gas to new markets, such as through LNG exports.

Eric from Cranford, NJ is looking at it from the other end. He’s analyzed the market around Shale gas production and has shown that the rigs are way over-producing and that the market is in a free fall. Debt in in the industry is rampant and drillers will be drilling at a loss for now and into the foreseeable future. He reckons the shale drillers have made themselves a bubble that’s now on the verge of total collapse.

EIS Scoping Comment 20150227-5507 submitted on February 27, 2015 by Eric Weisgerber called for an examination of the general investment and financial environment for shale gas fracking companies to judge their long-term viability, a determination of the likelihood of the current environment being a “bubble” and thus full of malinvestment, and an examination of the necessity of the shale gas industry to never stop drilling in order to keep up production even in a money-losing environment. Mr. Weisgerber also called for a vigorous and skeptical examination of the financial justifications for the pipeline as stated by PennEast.

As followup to the above scoping comment I am submitting the article “Natural Gas Prices To Crash Unless Rig Count Falls Fast” published on March 22, 2015 on oilprice.com:

http://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas/Natural-Gas-Prices-To-Crash-Unless-Rig-Count-Falls-Fast.html

He includes some quotes from the article in his submission (note: these bullets are out of quotes just for formatting purposes – all of these bullets are Eric’s):

  • rig counts for shale gas drilling are too high
  • an orgy of over-production is taking place in the Marcellus Shale
  • shale gas plays are not commercial at less than about $6/mmBtu except in small parts of the Marcellus core areas where $4 prices break even. Natural gas prices have averaged less than $3/mmBtu for the first quarter of 2015 and are currently at their lowest levels in more than 2 years.
  • Bank of America fears sub-$2 gas prices now that winter heating worries are over. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-18/surprising-natural-gas-output-has-bofabracing-for-sub-2-prices
  • The only criterion that seems to matter to investors these days is production guidance. If production drops, stock value will fall even farther than it has already. This will trigger loan covenants if asset values fall below thresholds set out in the loan agreements. When that happens, the loans will be called unless the companies can come up with more cash. This might result in bankruptcy. So, the drilling must continue as long as there is capital.
  • The table shows financial data through year-end 2014. What it reveals is not pretty. 2014 negative cash flow reached $15.5 billion, an increase of $7.2 billion over 2013. [Table of 22 top operators in the shale gas plays, see below]
  • On average, shale-gas companies earned only 68 cents for every dollar that they spent in 2014. Total debt increased almost $10 billion to $93.5 billion and average debt exceeded stated equity by 18% excluding companies with negative equity including the now-bankrupt Quicksilver Resources.
  • Shale gas plays are commercial failures. The misuse of capital to continue to increase production while destroying price and shareholder equity has gone on for too long. Investors should demand that shale gas companies cut rig counts at least as much as tight oil companies have.

He concludes:

The article quoted above provides evidence in support of the importance and necessity for an investigation into the true need for the PennEast pipeline. It shows that the current environment for shale gas plays is highly negative and that the future viability of those plays is gravely in doubt. It makes no obvious sense to build the PennEast pipeline, therefore the reasons for building it must be non obvious, unstated, and quite possibly highly speculative at the best, and fraudulent at the worst.

Eric’s analysis dovetails nicely with my own. Both sides show that there’s a glut of natural gas in the market place, and that producers are desperate to get the gas somewhere to prop up their drilling operations. They are in even more dire straights then you could imagine because they have covenants in their drilling agreements with the land owners that they must continually produce from the land. If they stop they lose their rights to drill. So they’re caught between losing a big percentage of their investment – or losing the entire damn thing.

This is where the LNG exports come in. They’re the hail mary pass the industry is making to save all that shale investment. If they can open up new markets their investments will be saved, and as a bonus gas prices will begin to rise again.

It’s been said here and elsewhere countless times, but bears repeating: This gas is not for NJ and PA. PennEast is lying to you and the government in their FERC application.

Eric’s full submission is available below:

Eric’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Eric’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Let’s take a look at the Downeast LNG DOE Submission

The first big step for any company that wants to consider LNG exporting out of the United States is to get permission from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). They have to make a case for their export terminal being reasonable and desirable, that they can build it safely, and that they’ll be shipping it responsibly to countries we trust.

The DOE recently approved the application from Downeast LNG, Inc to build an import/export station (but note it’s mostly for export).

First Downeast gives us the basics:

Pursuant to Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”)…Downeast LNG, Inc. (“DELNG”) hereby requests that DOE, Office of Fossil Energy (“DOE/FE”), grant long-term, multi-contract authorization for DELNG to engage in exports of domestically-produced liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) in an amount up to 173 million British thermal units (“MMBtu”) per year, which is equivalent to approximately 168 billion standard cubic feet (“Bcf”) of natural gas per year, for a 20 year period.

So their facility is going to liquify and ship up to 168 billion cubic feet per year of natural gas, or 460 million cubic feet a day. Recall that PennEast is setup to produce up to 1 billion cubic feet a day.

Downeast then tells us how they’re going to get the gas to their facility:

DELNG proposes to source natural gas to be used as feedstock for LNG production at the DELNG Project from U.S. and Canadian gas fields via the interstate pipeline system. The DELNG Project will interconnect with the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline (“M&NP”), which in turn interconnects with Portland Natural Gas Transmission System (“PNGTS”), Algonquin Gas Transmission System (“AGT”), and the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (“TGP”). Each of these three pipelines provides a distinct route to access eastern gas fields that the DELNG Project could use to source gas. Given regional demand, Kinder Morgan (the owner of TGP), Spectra (the owner of the AGT and partial owner of M&NP), and TransCanada (the owner of PNGTS), have each separately proposed capacity expansions for their existing system, or greenfield builds that would supply the region.

So this facility will be getting gas from interstate pipelines including The Algonquin Gas Transmission (AGT) system owned by….Spectra Energies.

You may recognize Spectra Energies as being a part-owner of the PennEast pipeline. PennEast will have interconnections to the AGT.

But would they really connect to a pipeline like PennEast, who’s source is Marcellus Shale gas? Here’s what they have to say on that:

The DELNG Project is encouraged by the increase in domestic natural gas production in the U.S., in particular, the rapid and sustained growth of gas fields in northeastern Pennsylvania. The production of natural gas in the producing regions in Pennsylvania and West Virginia now exceeds 14 Bcf per day (“Bcf/d”), based on estimates in the U.S. Energy Information Administration (“EIA”) May 2014 Drilling Productivity Report (“DPR”). Despite the rapid growth of U.S. natural gas production, some question whether it can be sustained unless new markets are found, given the low wellhead gas prices and a constrained gas pipeline delivery system. The EIA noted in a recent Short-Term Energy Outlook that:

[r]apid natural gas production growth in the Marcellus formation is contributing to falling natural gas forward prices in the Northeast, which often fall even with or below Henry Hub prices outside of peak winter demand months. Consequently, some drilling activity may move away from the Marcellus back to Gulf Coast plays such as the Haynesville and Barnett, where prices are closer to the Henry Hub spot price

So the answer there is “yes”. Downeast is being built specifically to receive gas from the Marcellus region.

Further down into the document Downeast gives us a real corker of a justification for their export facility:

4- Supply-Demand Balance Demonstrates the Lack of National and Regional Need

Recent trends in the U.S. natural gas market, in particular in the U.S. Northeast, make evident that the request for authorization to export domestic natural gas as LNG from the DELNG Project is consistent with the public interest.

U.S. natural gas production has been growing at more than twice the rate of domestic demand growth since 2005. The U.S. gas market has been unable to absorb the rapid increase, particularly in constrained gas production basins, leading to lower well-head prices, and forcing the shut-in of actively-producing wells, creating spare production capacity, non-productive resources, and a redeployment of production resources to unconstrained gas-producing regions and to oil fields.

So Downeast comes right out and says what everybody knows but didn’t want to put in writing – there is no national or regional demand for Marcellus shale gas. For the purposes of PennEast let me focus on the regional side. They make it plain – the NorthEast doesn’t need the gas from the PennEast pipeline. We’ve got tons of spare production capacity that has no where to go. It’s so bad they’ve actually been shutting down wells. The collapse of prices in the oil market have had an additional knock-on effect of causing even more well closures as natural gas follows oil’s suit and hits historic lows.

But wait, there’s more! Downeast quantifies the difference for us:

Based on these scenarios, discussed above, domestic demand growth for natural gas will average between 0.7% and 0.9% annually with total estimated demand of between 28.45 Tcf and 30.55 Tcf by 2040. However, over this same time period, domestic natural gas production is projected to grow between 1.5% and 1.7% annually, or approximately twice the rate of growth in domestic natural gas demand. Domestic natural gas production will exceed domestic demand by over 25% for both the Reference Case and High Economic Growth Case, or between 7.6 Tcf and 7.9 Tcf (20.9 Bcf/d to 21.7 Bcf/d) by 2040.

So shale gas producers are actually producing twice as much gas as we’ll need for growth.

Finally we come to the appendixes, which gives all of the data used to support their application. This area is lengthy but one part caught my eye in particular. There’s a section that talks about supply routes, and basically details where Downeast might get its gas from.

One portion talks about the “Spectra Route”:

The Spectra Route provides an opportunity for DELNG shippers to source natural gas from the Marcellus/Utica region at upstream points on Algonquin’s system (i.e., Lambertville, New Jersey or Ramapo, New York) and then transport it on one of Spectra’s proposed pipeline expansions into New England.

Lambertville, NJ? Does that ring a bell? It does to me – Lambertville is where the PennEast pipeline interconnects with the Algonquin pipeline system owned by Spectra Energy. In the above quote Downeast is proposing to use that interconnection to get Marcellus gas via PennEast.

And there you have it folks. Does anyone still have any doubt that a significant portion of the PennEast gas is going over seas now?

Let’s not have the energy industry copy the financial one

I’d like to share a bit of my work history with everyone to show some parallels between the financial services industry in the 90’s/2000’s and where we’re at today with the energy industry. Note that in many areas here I’m simplifying things greatly, especially when talking about financial instruments and models.

The Story
For many years I’ve worked as a software developer in financial services. And for a long time I was very pro-markets, as were a lot of people. This was the time of the Clinton Administration deregulating a lot of markets, of Alan Greenspan being worshipped as a God, and America as a nation was letting loose a money-making and GDP-exploding phenomena across the world.

At the same time, I was young and naive way back then. I believed nearly everyone had the world’s best interests in mind when they did things, that “evil” people or villains were just things you saw on TV. Real life people were just folks doing their jobs.

I didn’t realize that some people have incredibly strong drives to better their own fortunes, and they don’t care who gets in their way on the way there. If they were in the way they were just a problem to be taken care of. I saw a lot of it when I worked at a famous brokerage (now defunct) for 3 1/2 years in the mid to late 90s.  At bonus time we’d all go out drinking at noon and people would be driving to Atlantic City or a car dealership to blow half of it. People obsessed over what you drove. The head of a trading operation was known to take a personal helicopter into work occasionally. And in the new (lack of regulatory) environment, these driven people were concocting all sorts of money making schemes. Making money off of short term lending. Making money off of increasingly complex derivative products. Make money off of anything your brain could dream of. And with the increasing speed and power of computers people like me helped make it happen. We built the networks, the algorithms, the pricing systems that helped shore all this up.

All of this was made possible by the relaxing of regulation and increase in computer power. We leaped far ahead of what the government even understood what we were doing, and they didn’t care. “Let the market speak!”. There was light regulation but is seemed to be mostly prima facie stuff and not all that serious.

While I was proud of what I built I always had nagging suspicions in the back of my mind. There were always scandals going on, and some aspects of deals seemed a bit….dirty. Or at least very fogged up. Lots of money flowed around and it was devilishly hard to track. It bugged me and I eventually burned out, drifted away and around for awhile in other jobs.

As more regulations get relaxed, the industry gets more…creative

I then worked for another big financial firm in the 2000’s for 7 1/2 years.  I worked in the credit derivatives IT department.  My group worked with the quants to do the risk models that valued all the increasingly complex financial instruments.  Along the way I learned about how various credit derivatives worked.  I often came away really puzzled.  For examples a Credit Derivative Swap (CDS) is really just insurance on a bond.  So if you buy an IBM bond and are worried IBM is in financial trouble and might default, you get insurance on that investment.

But in my head I thought “But what if the insurance company defaults?  Why is the insurance company more reliable than the bond issuer?”.  I was told not to worry about that, no big deal, the model will cover it.

Mostly we just made money, but occasionally someone would actually default and there’d be an “oh shit!” moment. It was before my time but I heard than when Parmalat went bankrupt nobody’s default models actually worked. The whole system was broken and IT people had to scramble like mad to fix them. Not at one company but across all of Wall Street.

In any case I learned about about more complex things like “Indexes”, “Baskets” and “Collateralized Debot Obligations” (CDO). Indexes were just a bunch of CDS’ piled together. It gave you “default protection” across an industry or otherwise related companies.

The more complex ones were bundles of companies that were sliced into what are called “tranches”. Let’s take a gross made example of a basket of IBM, Ford, and Apple Computer.

You buy a basket of these, and you are protected from them going bankrupt. For this protection you pay X dollars a month for some amount of time (often 5 years). Think of the money like insurance premiums.

But with a basket, it’s a little complicated. You don’t just buy protection on a group of companies going bankrupt. You can pick a percentage of companies that go bankrupt too. You might say “this only applies for the first 33% of companies”. So in reality you’d get paid if any any one of the companies went bust, but then the deal was off.

Then there were Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO). These were very different. These were basically individual pieces of debt that package together, and then you got the cash flowing out of all of them. It could be personal loans, mortgage, credit card debt, whatever. These were tranched too, but a little different. If you were at the bottom and someone defaulted, you just lost that portion of the cashflow. If you were higher up you were protected until N number of people defaulted. At the very top end you’d be protected unless a huge number of the loans or whatever went bust.

As a result the bottom tranches cost very little because they were risky.

The top ones cost more money because they were viewed as safe.

Then they got even fancier and you could have a CDO where each “debt” wasn’t just one debt, it was actually another CDO! This was called a CDO2, short for “CDO-squared”.

People would occasionally mention how crazy some of these securities were. They explained it like this.

All this stuff comes with risk, and what investors do a lot is figure out how much risk you’re willing to take and invest based on that.  You could buy very risky things cheaply. Or you could buy very safe things for more money.

Back to CDO2.  The top end of these things – where like 20% of people had to default – were seen by investors as ultra-safe.  They were rated AAA.  They said “hey, no way 20% of the general population is going to default”!. But they also had high yields.  Low risk and big rewards – sounds awesome!  People bought them in droves.

But as people explained it, there was a reason they had such high yields.

It turned out that by having a CDO of CDOs, investors only looked at the first level (the top end) but not so much the underlying the CDOs in the individual buckets.

And what banks did was solve a problem they had had for awhile.  There’s a lot of junk debt out there.  High risk people with home mortgages.  Low level office workers with $30K credit card debt.  No one would buy this stuff.

But what if you bundled all of them together.  Then you took the riskier ones – the lowest tranches with first defaults.  And then you got an other bundle like that from another basket.  And a third from yet another basket.  You literally skim the worst parts of each.  And you assemble them into your new shiny CDO2, and you sell the top end of that as AAA.

This is just what a lot of CDO2 securities were.  Not all, but some.

They were all junk from the top to the bottom.  Normally you have a random mix of people in a basket, so the tranche model made sense.  But here the debt was uniform – they were all people with poor credit who would likely default en-masse if there was any bumps in the economy.

It was a bit of sleight of hand. Not illegal but bad things were hidden where ordinary large scale investors would be unlikely to find them.

The ratings agencies were involved in all this by assigning this stuff AAA.  I have no idea why but they did, but this helped. As it turns out companies pay for their ratings from Moodys or S&P or whoever. So there’s a bit of conflict of interest there. Especially since firms could shop around for ratings. And there was no regulation to reign this in.

And as a result cities and pensions and insurance companies and mutual funds all bought into them. Around this time I started to feel rather uneasy about my job.  I was no longer proud of my work.  And my job suffered since I didn’t believe in it anymore.

It hits the fan.

Then 2007 and 2008 happened.  What people described actually happened.  The housing bubble burst.  House prices plummted.  People went underwater.  Liar’s loans were a big part of that and go all the way back to Clinton’s degulation.  People started defaulting on their mortgages, on their credit cards, on their car loans.

Things didn’t just come apart financially. Just like with Parmalat, it turned out the models didn’t really work. Not in that environment at least. Everyone’s values were wrong based on a shared incorrect model.

All that debt was sold to pensions and insurance companies and mutual funds as AAA debt at the highest levels of protection went bust. The impossible scenario happened because the sleight of hand didn’t match reality.

The final icing on the cake were “naked” derivatives.  This was buying a derivative without actually owning anything.  You could buy CDS insurance without having a bond.

The problem there was that people bought more CDS insurance then there were actual bonds.  It was like buying insurance for a house – but you don’t own the house. It’s not totally insane – it was integral to hedging strategies and why companies loved the derivatives so much.

In the end there were many times more derivatives than actual bonds that needed protection. As the markets stressed more people were called to pay 10x more money out than they had in collateral. It was impossible.

In the end the Fed had to bail everybody out to the tunes of trillions of dollars. The deregulation of the Clinton years and speeded up by the Bush one ended up with standards loosened everywhere, and the financial companies ate it up. They pushed the loosened standards to the max. Except that in the end it was all a house of cards, and it blew up in their faces.

Personally I got even more disenfranchised at my job, lost interest and my job performance plummeted. In the end I was caught in a round of layoffs in 2012. Which worked out well for me in the end – I got enough money to move to where I live now in West Amwell, and start again. I still work in financial services but now I work for a financial service information and news firm. What we do is basically inject transparency everywhere we can in the system and help bring the truth to everyone. It’s a liberating change.

Don’t let the FERC ape the financial regulators of the past

Bringing this back to my original point. I’ve seen first hand that companies by themselves cannot self regulate. They want to maximize their profit and growth, and they can be incredibly innovative (and sneaky, and underhanded) to get there. You need independent regulators to define the rules and make companies abide them. In finance you see things finally changing. Now we are seeing companies going to court. Firms sued for deceptive CDO2 stuff. Companies all over Wall Street settling with the government over collusion in FX pricing. Mortgage rules are being re-instated so you can’t do liar loans anymore. Proprietary trading desks have been busted up. The government realizes they can’t be frat brothers with the finance firms. They have to be the responsible watchers and punishers.

We need the same for infrastructure regulation. We can’t rely on self-regulation or collaborative buddy systems between government and industry. The human race has it hard-wired into its DNA to angle for the edge, to shave off a few points where they can, to scrabble to get ahead. And a percentage of us will cheat to get there. It’s just the way it is, and corporations are no different.

The big problem here is the FERC. Their goal is to be just like financial regulators in the 90s and 2000s – to be cheerleaders and help companies increase their bottom line and grow GDP. To be their drinking buddies.

This is totally wrong.

Now I’m not talking about shutting down infrastructure. I’m talking about making the companies building infrastructure to do it responsibly. To double-under score that gas is a transition fuel and we need to cap it’s usage at some point. To show that fracking is incredibly harmful and also should be capped. That some day soon we’re going to have to rely on geothermal, wind, solar. Maybe nuclear if we can ever get it done right. There are enormous challenges to doing that, so I acknowledge we just can’t wipe out nat gas and oil instantaneously. But there has to be a clear plan and FERC et al have to reign in excesses.

To do that, they have do what we did in 2008 with finance. They have to get tough. They need to grow teeth. They need to dictate terms to energy companies, not ask them what they want done. Executives need to go to jail when they break the law. The FERC should stop turning a blind eye to federal guidelines and laws. Concerned residents, conservation organizations, and environmental protection agencies should not be seen as “problems” for FERC to work around.

The government, and the people, should not trust vague assurances. “We’re exerts, we know what we’re doing, we’re following industry best practices”. This is what the people behind the financial collapse said. They said trust us, this model will work – and the all fell apart when Parmalat went bankrupt. They said trust us, this model will work again – and then the Basket and CDO models went to crap when the market dove. They said no no no, wait wait, give us one more chance – and Lehman went under and the Fed started printing money 24/7 to keep the lights on for everyone.

The energy companies should finance this. The FERC budget should come from energy companies as a production tax. Their budget problems would evaporate if they got even a fraction of a percent of the production numbers.

Sounds just like PennEast and all the other drilling and pipeline companies, doesn’t it?

Congress and the administration should act too. FERCs sole-approval authority should be revoked. They should be peers to the other agencies, not above them.

Industry should not be inviting FERC directors to give presentations of projections at their conferences. The industry should be scared to death of them. That’s when you know you’re doing it right.

The shills dig in

The most recent Lehigh Valley Live article on the PennEast article attracted the usual set of comments.  No surprise there.

What surprised me was to see a conversation in the comment section between “OldJohnDeer79″ and…”Mike Spillet” in West Amwell.

There is no “Mike Spillet” in West Amwell but there sure is a “Mike Spille” – ME!

So now we have PennEast shills impersonating real people, and they don’t even have the skills to get their name right.

How low are they willing to stoop?

PennEast responds to scoping comments with a fifth grader’s essay

PennEast has responded to the FERC scoping comments made by individuals and organizations:

PennEast’s response – FERC Generated PDF

PennEast’s response – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site
The response reads like it was written by a fifth grader who forgot their paper was due tomorrow (with all due apologies to fifth graders). It is difficult to enumerate how many things are wrong with this document, but I’ll try:

  • People’s comments are lumped together by category. Instead of responding to each individual scoping document, PennEast has done a massive amount of editing and pushed everybody into buckets. There’s a water quality bucket, protected waters bucket, blasting bucket, etc. If anyone shared any unique information in their specific comments they are completely lost. This is completely outrageous.
  • The comments are boilerplate and vague. For example, on the question of whether this pipeline is needed or not, PennEast says “Section of 1.1 of Resource Report 1 – General Project Description details the purpose and need of the PennEast Pipeline”. That’s it.
  • There’s no detail. When people submit issues for multiple creeks, PennEast lumps it all together and says “We’ll do a study”. That is not acceptable. Before FERC should grant approval they should force PennEast to do all studies up front and prove that they will not endanger streams, will not hurt the ecology, will not damage our wells, and will not generally harm our environment and lifestyles.
  • Responses are missing.  Of the myriad of issues and questions I had in my FERC submission, PennEast responded to…9.
  • PennEast avoids certain questions altogether.  There are two separate questions on blasting – one is about PennEast blasting, another is about the pipeline running near quarries that blast – PennEast lumps the two together.  And then says nothing about the quarry blasting.
  • They are unwilling to move the route.  They’d rather say “we’ll fix any problems we create” than “we’ll move it”.  On the karst geology and sink holes – they say “don’t worry about it, our steel is high grade!”.  On arsenic, they say “Hey arsenic occurs naturally, what’s the big deal?  And if it contaminates anyone’s well, we’ll get them water from somewhere else, somehow”.
  • They keep saying disturbances will be “temporary” in nature.  Once construction is done, all will be well!!
  • They keep saying they will “minimize impacts” to areas.  They don’t say how, they just assert they will.
  • They do bring up compensation.  A lot.  If we screw up your ecology, we’ll pay you.  If we screw up you open spaces, we’ll pay you.  If we ruin your crops we’ll pay you.  If we go through your parks and endanger wild life, we’ll pay you.  Listen up, PennEast.  We don’t want you to pay us.  We want you and your pipeline to go away.
  • It’s all about convenience for PennEast.  On the issue of endangered species, PennEast says “Where practicable, the pipeline route is being adjusted to avoid protected habitats”.  And when it’s not practicable?  Well, then, too bad.
  • On the proximity to schools: “Data shows that while natural gas demand has increased, serious pipeline incidents have decreased by 90 percent over the past three decades alone, primarily as a result of significant efforts by pipeline companies to upgrade and modernize their infrastructure”.  So here PennEast actually admits that accidents do happen.  But it’s rare, so, yeah, we’ll be running that pipeline a few thousand feet from elementary schools anyway.  And if we blow up your kids we’ll compensate you!

Go read the document yourself and be prepared to get annoyed.  Really annoyed.  Keep sharp objects and breakables away from your reading area just to stay safe.  It’s really that bad.