At least they’re consistent.

An e-comment I’ve filed with the FERC today.


At the end of March 2015 PennEast made a number of variations to their preferred pipeline route, and released maps documenting it. They released both topo-based maps and a Google Earth/Google Maps based route so people could look at the pipeline route interactively online.

Unfortunately there is significant variances in the two map sources in the vicinity of Frenchtown and Kingwood Township NJ. The variances run from 600 up to 1,200 feet and are very significant in some cases. For example one version has the pipeline route clipping Frenchtown, in the other one the route just misses Frenchtown. In another example the pipeline route appears to be routing around the Solar array in Kingwood Township, but the other map shows it still be routed through the middle of said array. And of course the properties impacted in the two versions are completely different in the affected areas.

This level of carelessness and release of contradictory information is completely unacceptable in a project of this magnitude, but is sadly part of a pattern PennEast has shown in their execution of this project to date. How can we trust a company that gets such important details so very wrong on a such a consistent basis?

Pointing out the obvious flaws in FERC’s regulatory process

People who live in towns affected by the PennEast pipeline are getting fed up with the obvious deficiencies in the FERC process, and over time they are learning where all the cracks and faults and problems lie. And they’re starting to bring all that information together and present it back to the FERC. The hope is that perhaps the new FERC head, Norman Bay, will start a serious round of introspection and meditate on what FERC’s true role is in the industry. And to possibly reconsider their what their legal responsibilities and moral obligations are when energy companies start exceeding all common sense and propose new projects with reckless abandon and little or no concern for people who are impacted.

Lorraine from Milford, NJ is one of the people leading this charge, and I hope you all will lend your voice to hers and echo her sentiment. Lorraine is talking about recent peaceful protests in Washington D.C. against the FERC, and how they are violating people’s rights while turning a blind eye to energy company’s misdeeds. She submitted this comment to the FERC today:

Lorraine Crown, Milford, NJ.
Re: FERC Utilizing Homeland Security to Deny the Public Access to its Public Meetings

I have seen several videos taken yesterday, May 14, 2015 from the FERC meeting in Washington D.C.

I am writing to say the following: the community members who oppose the PennEast Pipeline and other pipeline projects and who attend public meetings with the pipeline company, FERC scoping sessions and your commission meetings, are citizens, taxpayers, landowners, and voters – fully recognized stakeholders in the FERC process. To treat this community as though we are eco-terrorists who require the heavy hand of Homeland Security to make sure we don’t become dangerous and to deny our presence at meetings is absurd, unjust and possibly illegal.

Most of the community members who attend public meetings to voice their concerns with PennEast, other pipeline companies, and FERC, have gray hair and are farmers and families. Any protest against FERC organized by BXE has been peaceful and respectful – their stated mission, and our right as citizens of the United States. In all of the many public meetings that I have attended on the proposed PennEast project – all of which had extreme police presence completely out of scope for the nearly zero crime rates in the communities in which these meetings took place – the only time there was ever a disturbance, it was caused by a PRO-PennEast attendee who screamed obscenities at the audience as he stormed out.

We are reaching out to our legislators – and to our lawyers – to put a stop to this harassment of citizens attempting to exercise our free speech and to fully engage the regulatory process that impacts our lives. FERC is not a neutral or fair actor in this process when it allows the PennEast and other pipeline companies to dismiss stakeholder concerns outright in their meetings with the public and with landowners, and in their Response to Scoping reports; when it fails to sufficiently examine cumulative impact; and when it makes a mockery of the critical scoping process by not allowing communities adequate time to complete environmental impacts on continuous route changes, or to schedule sufficient scoping meetings; and when it implies by heavy police presence at its meetings, that its stakeholders are dangerous and criminal. Citizens – not eco-terrorists – have been shown by FERC that our interests are meaningless and are being ignored in the regulatory process, which appears to be nothing more than a “going through the motions” exercise on the way to FERC rubber stamping the next pipeline project.

Lorraine Crown
Milford (Holland Township), New Jersey

Cc: NJ Senator Mike Doherty
NJ Assemblyman John DiMaio
NJ Assemblyman Erik Peterson
Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman
Representative Leonard Lance
NJ Senator Shirley Turner
US Senator Corey Booker
US Senator Robert Menendez
Department of Homeland Security

Her comment is available below:

Lorraine’s text submission
Lorraine’s text submission, alternate FERC site

The fracking industry’s amateurish attempts to mislead the public and FERC

A gentleman by the name of Dustin Kuhlman posted a comment to the PennEast FERC docket this morning. He is very pro-pipeline has some nice turns of phrase in his commentary. His comments in full are below:

The vocal opposition of a few should not be generalized as the common opinion of many. I, like many of my neighbors, colleagues and friends, welcome responsible natural gas development and recognize the PennEast
Pipeline Project as crucial to the region. As such, I would like to add my voice to those who support the PennEast Pipeline Project.

The presence of large quantities of accessible natural gas in our region cannot be ignored. With current state-of-the-art technologies and diligent oversight to ensure established safety protocols are followed,
this natural gas resource must be developed and put to good use for the benefit of homes and businesses.

I proudly encourage environmentally responsible exploration, safe drilling, efficient transportation and proper maintenance of our natural gas resources. This will ensure that our energy needs will be met well
into the future in an environmentally and sound economical manner.

Beyond the logic of putting our own resources at a higher priority than those controlled by often hostile foreign energy suppliers, I point to the growing needs of our local economy. The PennEast Pipeline Project not only will deliver a safe, reliable, affordable supply of natural gas, it will do so with a $1.6 billion economic benefit during its design and construction and provide annual energy savings of close to $900 million per year to Pennsylvania and New Jersey consumers. These are major economic benefits for many of our local and regional families, communities and businesses.

As someone who knows firsthand the benefits of all that natural gas makes possible, I ask you to approve the PennEast Project. Thank you.

I suppose if you read the above opinion in a vacuum it would be pretty impressive. Hey, we should safely and diligently work to exploit this resource to our best abilities, and the boon to the region will be absolutely incredible! Let’s ignore those few pesky whiners out there and focus on all the good this project will do for us!

Sounds good, right?

Except of course we don’t live in a vacuum, and a lot of Dustin’s words will seem eerily familiar to those who have been following the PennEast news closely.

He opens by saying “The vocal opposition of a few should not be generalized as the common opinion of many”. This is eerily similar to what Patricia Kornick, PennEast spokes person, said in a recent article in Kornick said: “The vocal voices of a few should not be construed as the overall perception” (the full article is here

The “1.6 billion” deal is of course referring to PennEast’s bogus Drexel study from a few months ago that was thoroughly debunked by multiple sources. The “energy savings of close to $900 million per year” is a gross perversion of the more recent PennEast study where they claimed they could have saved the region $890 million if they were able to take a time machine back 3 years, magically build the pipeline and have it ready for the polar vortex winter of 2013/2014.

So what’s Dustin’s deal here?

Well it’s pretty simple. Dustin is a Vice President for the firm Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. (CEC):

A big part of his firms business is to hire themselves out as high priced consultants to the fracking industry.

You see, Dustin overseas the consulting group within CEC that focuses on the natural gas industry. His group has grown their revenue from fracking operations from $2 million in 2007 to $32 million last year.

There’s also Frank Jeanson. He wrote an identical comment to the FERC. Here’s his linkedin profile:

From there we see he works for Shell Oil Company as “Community Relations / Non-Technical Risk Manager for Shell’s Appalachia project which includes over 1 million acres in 4 distinct project areas across the State of Pennsylvania”.

And there’s Devesh Mittal, also with the same identical submission. Here’s his linked in profile:

He’s a Vice President and General Manager at a company called Aquatech. He’s in charge of their shale gas division. They do water treatment of the contaminated water that comes out of fracking wells. Another company who make tens of millions from fracking.

Jennifer McDonough? She did the same. And guess what industry she works in?

She’s a “Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for Rex Energy Corporation”, a big time fracking company.

Amber Benzon. Ditto:

She works for the Marcellus Shale coalition and is a “Director of Government Affairs”.

None off these people disclosed their employment in the fracking industry. Not a single one.

So, just like the UGI employees commenting on the FERC docket without identifying their conflict of interest to the government, we have multiple people cheerleading the pipeline without disclosing that their companies makes tens of millions of dollars from the fracking industry.

I have no problem with fracking industry leaders voicing their opinions in a public forum. It’s a free company and we’re all entitled to our opinion. But people who have a financial stake in the outcome of a project should disclose their conflict of interest as a matter of course to keep the debate honest. To fail to do so exposes the deep level of deception and lack of ethics that you see in the shale gas boom’s darker corners.

PennEast: Stop trying to deceive the press and the public

Update: This is the final version of my comments to the FERC protesting PennEast’s unending campaign of deceit against residents and the press.  The FERC submission is available here:

or here:

Alternate FERC site


Mike Spille
West Amwell, NJ
May 1, 2015
PennEast: Please tell the truth
PennEast should be chastised for its inaccurate comments to the press and communities

A recent story by the Bucks County Herald highlighted landowner dissatisfaction with you, PennEast LLC, and quoted several landowners in the area who were unhappy with their interactions with the company. When asked for comment your spokesperson, Patricia Kornick, responded that “The vocal voices of the few should not be construed as the overall perception”:

The article is on page 5 entitled “Residents Disappointed in private meetings with PennEast”.

Ms. Kornicks’ comment could not be further from the truth, and there is no doubt at all that she is aware of this. Ms. Kornick, and by extension you, PennEast, have been engaged in a strategy of deceit with residents for months since this project was announced. And it’s got to end.

As one of the landowners quoted in the article I take great offense at Ms. Kornicks’s comment, and ask you, PennEast, to issue a retraction for this self-serving and factually incorrect remark, and apologize everyone who is being impacted by this proposal. Furthermore I ask that the FERC should rebuke PennEast and punish them for such behavior to the fullest extent allowable by their regulatory powers.

The way your epresentatives work to deceive and mislead the public during the critical regulatory time of the FERC pre-filing period is not only ethically bankrupt but I suspect also against several federal regulations.

Now if Ms. Kornick genuinely believed that only a “few” people were unhappy with PennEast, and against the pipeline in general, then perhaps that could be forgiven. But the facts are heavily against that argument.

To date, survey permission has been granted by only 30% of the properties affected in NJ. This number is not mine, it comes directly from your regulatory filings. And this is despite the full-court press your company has made to get survey permission in any way they can. Since my land has fallen within the survey corridor I have been asked four times for survey permission, and refused to grant it each time. Every time I talk to PennEast or the land agents this topic comes up. And I am lucky to have such a low number. Many people have rejected far more requests.

Yet despite all this pressure from you, and despite the incredibly high stakes that are being waged, a startling 70% of all impacted landowners are saying “No” to PennEast. In America we don’t call 70% a “few”. We call that a super-majority and it’s almost unheard of.

In addition to this, every town in NJ through which the pipeline is proposed to pass has issued a formal resolution against the pipeline. Every. Single. One. Not one or two. Not a “few”. 100% of them. Not only that, towns that are miles away from the route have also passed the same resolutions. This again is an unprecedented display of municipal solidarity.

I attended the scoping meeting Holland Township back in February. The room was packed to capacity. The parking lot filled up, people had to park along the highway and eventually just gave up or were turned away. Of all the people who came to speak, only two spoke in favor of PennEast. Two. All of the other dozens of people who spoke were against the pipeline. People from all stations and walks of life. Mayors, local leaders. Presidents of conservation movements both regional and national. Farmers. Lawyers. Scientists. Software developers. Graphic artists. Retirees. We all rose up and we all let you, PennEast, know in no uncertain terms that you were not wanted, not needed, and no one believed a word you were saying.

Oh, and the two people I mentioned in favor of PennEast? One was an energy company executive, the other a member of the pipe fitters union.

All of this was seen first hand by Alisa Harris of your company, and is contained in transcripts filed by the FERC as well.

And the Holland meeting was the laid back one. I’ve seen video and heard descriptions of the West Trenton scoping meeting and it was an order of magnitude more hostile to PennEast than the Holland one was!

I see the numbers from my own personal blog about the pipeline, This is a modest effort on my part with no advertising, no media exposure, no massive campaign behind it. It’s just me, speaking out in opposition to PennEast, spreading by word of mouth and grass roots. My modest web site has had thousands upon thousands of visitors since it started only a few months ago.

Not a few. Thousands.

And I’m small potatoes. The Concerned Citizens Against the Pipeline have a facebook page called, appropriately enough, Stop the PennEast Pipeline. That page has 2,347 “likes”. Since its inception it has reached 270,000 unique users with its content. In total it has registered a whopping 985,000 Facebook “impressions” – nearly a million! 27,000 unique users have registered as “engaged” with that content – that is a measure of people who are actively engaging and interacting with the site.

I’ll note that these are all what are known as “organic” numbers. No money is exchanged with anyone to get all these views and hits. It’s all individuals interested in knowing more about your pipeline and how to fight it.

On the FERC site there are over 1,300 submissions containing in aggregate over 3,000 comments. The vast majority of them are from people hostile the pipeline and criticizing the route, the justification, the environmental dangers it poses, the risks to our drinking water, and the contamination of our culture and values in a highly rural set of communities.

These are not a “few” people, Ms. Kornick.

There are a few people who are pro-pipeline in the FERC comments. Christine Kramlich, Jeremy Horning, Shane Clark, Joan Neustadter, Barbara Nawa, and a dozen or so others have written short notes in favor of the pipeline. The only problem is that they’re all employees of UGI, the firm managing your project and who will operate the pipeline. None of them identified themselves as your employees yet they came onto the FERC site to champion your cause. This is
yet another level of deceit layered onto the government and landowners. I have to wonder out loud, again, what federal regulations say about practicing this kind of fraud during the pre-filing regulatory period.

Let’s step back and begin where we started. Look at this mountain of evidence and tell me how on Earth Ms. Kornick can say “The vocal voices of the few should not be construed as the overall perception”? What overall perception is that Ms. Kornick? Are you caught up in your own self-deception and are referring to the dozen UGI employees your company has turned into shills?

Instead I invite you to step into the light and acknowledge the very real opposition of tens of thousands of people who are thoughtfully and intelligently protesting and resisting your company.

In closing I will re-iterate my requests to both PennEast and the FERC. PennEast, please immediately issue a retraction of Ms. Kornick’s statement and apologize to the thousands of us who are united in opposition to your company. And continue that trend by telling us the truth from now on. Stop your campaign of deceit against innocent landowners and residents. Tell the truth and perhaps you will gain some measure of respect and a tiny, incremental piece of trust.

To the FERC I ask you to sanction PennEast to the maximum extent allowable by your controlling statutes. Punish them for their pattern of willfully trying to deceive the public and landowners while they are operating within a federal regulatory review process. I still have some faith in our federal government and I hope to God you will not grant approval to a company who bases their entire strategy on deception and sleight of hand. continues to be a thorn in the side of PennEast

The U.S. Energy Information Administration is a government agency who’s charter is to act as an organization that “collects, analyzes, and disseminates independent and impartial energy information to promote sound policymaking, efficient markets, and public understanding of energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment”. Unlike the FERC they really are fairly neutral parties and they seem to the “independent and impartial” aspects of their functions seriously.

A lot of my research has centered around because they give so much raw data – and then they couple it with hundreds of different ways to correlate it, visualize it, and analyze it. Since day one they’ve been a thorn in the side of PennEast because data regularly repudiates a number of PennEast’s key justification claims.

One of their handy tools to help make sense of all the information out there is their “Natural Gas Weekly Update“. It’s kind of like a newsletter that snapshots what happened in the week prior in the natural gas markets. They give pricing, capacity, supply, and demand numbers for the week but also provide some light analysis to explain larger forces driving the market and what might be coming up in future weeks or months.

Their most recent on is here:

There are a number of useful nuggets of information in here that taken together land a heavy blow against PennEast’s so-called justification for their pipeline, including:

  • The levels of natural gas going to electrical power generation is more dependent on pricing and the weather than any other factor.  The record for consumption by electrical plants was hit in 2012 when we had fewer natural gas fired plants than we do today.
  • Retirement of coal-fired plants is a red-herring.  EIA notes “It’s important to note that retiring coal-fired capacity does not necessarily result in a significant change in generation; many of the retiring plants are old and not used much.”.

The two above points taken together mean that you shouldn’t put too much credence on people pointing to the retirement of coal-fired plants as a big driver of natural gas consumption.  Yes there will be some uptake but it is fairly moderate in size.  When PennEast talks about natural gas replacing coal or speaks of supplying the Gilbert electrical plant in Holland Township they are not talking about substantial amounts.  Mostly they’re talking about backup generation facilities (e.g. what Gilbert is) that go mostly unused.  Which reinforces the question again – when all of these assets are sitting around not using the gas, where’s it going to go?

There is further data on the overall system’s capacity and the production numbers:

  • There’s already an enormous amount of elasticity in the system.  The generation numbers show that we can already accomodate up to 5 billion cubic feet of day of changes in consumption without significantly impacting the system as a whole.
  • Gross production is up 8% year over year, while LNG imports into the country are down 64%.

In other words we are drowning in natural gas and seem to have adequate pipes to move it around.  This is further underlined by the next piece of data:

  • Price volatility compared to a year prior is down 1100%.  Last year during the polar vortex prices spiked on a couple of days to around $110.  This year prices spiked to….$8.00.

And there you have the gun pointing at PennEast’s head.  Their whole house of cards is really based on that $110 number from a year ago.  It’s what they use to scare the crap out of people and indicate that they are our saviors.

In reality the problems that lead to that $110 have been fixed.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’ve had new pipelines come on line in 2014 which helped with capacity issues.  And FERC has mandated coordination between major consumers and producers to make the existing infrastructure far more efficient.  The net result: $8 vs. $110.

While most of us hate Mondays, I imagine PennEast dreads Thursdays.  Thursday, the day of the Natural Gas Weekly Update that puts yet another nail in PennEast’s coffin.

PA starts to hit their stride

The state of Pennsylvania has a long and difficult history with energy projects. They’ve endured disastrous coal mining incidents such as the infamous Knox Mine Disaster in 1959, where the Susquehanna River broke through and inundated a network of mines, killing a dozen workers. The Centralia mine fire that started in 1962 involves 3,700 acres of land, where coal seams up to 300 feet down keep burning. Today, 53 years later that coal is still burning, and could burn for centuries to come.

And today fracking operations dot their landscape and poison their wells. Pipelines stretch out in all directions to spread the pain away from the immediate fracking wells to engulf people all over the state. Sometimes when I talk to Pennsylvanians on this subject I get a strong vibe akin to talking to a terminal patient in the hospital, there’s a sense of someone who has fought a series of long hard battles and who knows the end isn’t going to go well.

But I see new hope blooming in Pennsylvania, springing up in our midst right alongside the Spring daffodils. In an unprecedented some townships in the state have enacted formal resolutions against the pipeline. The Cooks Creek Watershed Association worked in concert with Concerned Citizens of Durham Townsphip against the Pipeline, Concerned Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline of Williams Township, and to get a billboard against the pipeline installed on route 12.

Most recently, William G. Dohe, the Chairman of the Environmental Advisory Council of Easton, Pennsylvania, has filed a comment with the FERC declaring their organization is formally opposed to the pipeline. Mr. Dohe writes:

After careful review of information available to date, the Environmental Advisory Council of Easton, Pennsylvania wishes to record our opposition to the proposed PennEast Pipeline. We are concerned that the proposed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be incomplete and not adequately weigh the direct economic benefit of PennEast Pipeline Company LLC to the risks and costs to the communities that will be forced to play its host.

The council then enumerates a list of specific areas of concern they want the FERC to force PennEast to address:

  • Carbon absorption.  “What is the total amount of carbon absorption lost due to the cutting of trees in the pipeline’s path? What is the net increase in GHGs attributable to this loss of vegetation?”.
  • Blast zone.  “What is the radius of likely property damage and loss of life, should the pipeline explode? This should be based on the total amount of gas under pressure proposed for the pipeline. A map should be prepared indicating what properties adjoining or in proximity to the pipeline will be subject to increased risk of property damage and bodily harm”.
  • Local usage.  “What percentage of the proposed pipeline gas will be delivered to the host communities versus the total amount of gas transported? How much gas will be delivered domestically versus shipped to overseas markets?
  • Global warming.  “How much does the gas transported by the pipeline contribute to GHGs (in metric tonnes per annum) and global warming?”
  • Leaks and other emissions.  “How much gas (and what kinds thereof) will be emitted (leaked or
    vented) from the pipeline, or its facilities along the route?
  • Construction runoff.  “During construction, what types of construction-related run-off is expected – including solids, silts, and chemicals – and what streams/rivers and aquifers will be affected?
  • Sinkholes.  “What impacts will the pipeline have on our karst soils, and specifically, what will be the increase in potential sinkholes from its construction?”
  • Historic site impact.  ” What historic resources will be affected by the pipeline? A map indicating all colonial era as well as pre-colonial era resources (such as tribal lands and burial areas) should be included.”
  • Audits.  “An independent audit of PennEast Pipeline Company’s “Economic Benefits Study” by Drexel should be conducted and actual long-term economic impacts be considered.”
  • Clean Air and Water Act regulations.  “A list of all Clean Air and Clean Water Act regulations from which the gas industry supplying the pipeline, as well as from which the pipeline itself are exempt, should also be provided so that the public can fully understand their short- and long-term- risks

Let’s hope that the FERC takes heed of this and similar submissions and forces PennEast to submit detailed studies and analysis of all of these topics.  On the issue of economic benefits in particular I would go even further than Mr. Dohe’s request for an audit of PennEast’s Drexel University study.  I would demand that an independent study be conducted, paid for by PennEast but selected by a neutral third party, which considers the true economic impact to our communities including all of the negative impacts the construction will entail in our region, including but not limited to loss of business due to construction near businesses, loss of tourism dollars in affected tourist destinations, funds spent by local, county, and state governments to study and respond to PennEast and FERC’s scoping process which could have been spent on more constructive projects, economic impact of traffic issues during construction, and permanent economic losses incurred by properties and landowners along the permanently cleared 50′ right of way.

The EAC’s submission is available below:

EAC FERC Submission
EAC FERC Submission Alternate Site