Last time I checked NJ and PA were not in New England

A critical part of PennEast’s plans to use eminent domain is that they must prove this pipeline is serving a well defined public need and is in the public’s interest.  Their response to this is that the pipeline will serve businesses and consumers in eastern PA and NJ.

Which leads me to this:

Crestwood says strong demand for New England pipeline

This article describes how Crestwood Partners plans on building a new pipeline, the MARC II, to connect the PennEast pipeline to New England.

Wait, what? New England? NJ and PA aren’t in New England!

You’re right.  Even fifth graders know that.  But PennEast and other projects are in fact building connectivity to their pipelines for many markets. Marcellus gas flowing on PennEast could go to PA and NJ. And also go to Connecticut, Massachusettes. Vermont, Maine. And south Delaware and Virginia.

And of course onto ships from Cove Point LNG terminal to the south and the Downeast LNG terminal proposed to the North.

All the pipelines in this country are interconnected so gas can flow wherever people contract for it.

PennEast saying that this gas is intended for just NJ and PA is just plain lying to you.

Hunterdon County Board of Freeholders talks of “draconian measures”

I heard John King speak at the Hunterdon County FERC scoping meeting. He sounded extremely reasonable, gave well thought-out arguments. And it was clear he was severely pissed at PennEast and the FERC.

John is the director of the Hunterdon County Board of Freeholders, so his words carry some weight.

He opens:

The subject of the Penn East natural gas pipeline has sparked comment and controversy since the unveiling of the project’s concept last year. This Freeholder Board withheld judgment to afford the pipeline’s proponents and critics a fair hearing and consider additional issues affecting Hunterdon County as a whole. In light of the facts before us, we are compelled to oppose Penn East’s application.

Like many people (myself included), he and the rest of the board was not instantly against the PennEast pipeline. He was willing to listen to what they had to say and see what benefits they might afford us.

From my POV, what he found is that:

1) This pipeline is not meant to benefit the people of New Jersey. Any such benefit would be mere side line of opportunity, not the main point.

2) The choice of route is incredibly bad.

3) They are choosing the easy way instead of the ethical way.

In his words:

Our objections are based upon (1) the disregard of potential alternate paths using existing easements that may result in the abuse of eminent domain to destroy conservation easements and pre-empt County open space policy; (2) the insufficiency of proposed compensation to affected landowners; (3) the threat of construction- generated water contamination in specific neighborhoods serviced by private wells; and (4) the absence of a lasting public benefit outweighing the burdens upon homeowners in
the project’s path.

He goes on to point out how PennEast is almost systematically wiping out Open Space conservation easements in the County, and is not even trying to find alternatives.

Among the properties lying in the proposed pipeline’s path are 23 farms constituting 2,007 acres of County-preserved open space. If approved, the Penn East pipeline would necessarily extinguish the County’s conservation easements of those those farms and trump a County open space policy mandated by three successive voter referenda. This issue alone warrants our opposition.

Moreover, Penn East has raised the specter of eminent domain —presumably to thwart the County’s defense of its interests in the preserved open space. This threat arises despite the existence of alternate routes within established public utility rights-of-way, including similar pipeline easements.. It is our understanding that Penn East has not contacted some utility companies to negotiate co-location of its pipeline within their easements. A judicial taking of property for use by a for-profit corporation should always be a last resort. We will never support a proposal that threatens the condemnation of land where less draconian measures of property acquisition have not first been exhausted.

The above issue is one of the biggest ones I personally have with PennEast. They aren’t even really trying here. Their route choices are predominantly based on playing with Google Earth, and a single aerial reconaissance. If they were serious about minimizing impacts they would do real surveys before even getting the FERC involved.

John goes on to talk about the inadequate compensation involved:

Penn East also proposes inadequate —and therefore unjust —compensation to Hunterdon taxpayers in the project’s path. The utility conglomerate merely proposes to pay owners the one-time loss of value attributed to the new encumbrance on property. Pipelines earn continuous profits potentially to include additional revenue from other public utilities. The benefits Penn East would reap from any targeted property are analogous to those received by wireless providers from cell. towers. Wireless companies place cell towers on another’s property with an agreement to provide the owner with a
stream of income, much like a lease. When the company leases those towers to other wireless providers, the land owner receives additional income due to the third party’, commercial use of the owner’s land. Properly owners in the pipeline’s path should be treated no diiferently. Thus, if Penn East is going to earn continuous profits from the exploitation of the land of another, it should make that owner a partner.

The issue of people’s wells is of course well known. He argues that PennEast must avoid these entirely.

Construction disturbance near a local drinking water supply raises contamination concerns. The proposed project slices through 53 acres of Tier 1 well protection areas —neighborhoods with residents overwhelmingly dependent on the consumption of well water. Prior local experience with drinking water contamination caused by poorly supervised construction near an existing transfer station proves that a potential threat to the well protection area is a well-founded misgiving. In fact, we would prefer that any pipeline be routed around this area entirely.

On the question of who benefits, PennEast again fails to give us any useful information.

The usual benefit of a pipeline passing near a neighborhood is access to the natural gas running through it. In the public hearings, however, Penn East could not guarantee that this pipeline would connect a single additional residence to natural gas in any time frame beneficial to current homeowners. In fact, our County is poorly served by natural gas due to the nature of its dispersed rural population. As a result, our homeowners are unlikely to reap much of any corresponding reduction in the cost of natural gas because so few County residents have access to it.

He closes with the point that the main issue is not the source of the gas. It’s an issue for some but not all. But that the route is nearly wrecklessly determined and will not benefit us.

To be clear, this Board has not swallowed whole every argument brandished by critics of Penn East’s application. We do not oppose the principle of constructing underground pipelines to transport natural gas. This method of delivering energy to consumers has proven far less dangerous than alternate means of transport: ship, truck and rail. Natural gas ibrelf is known to be a much cleaner burning fuel than this region’s other major sources of electricity, such as oil and coal. Secondly, several natural gas pipelines already cross Hunterdon County and have existed for decades. We do not subscribe to the notion that the mere presence of an additional pipeline within our County’s borders is a sufficient basis to oppose this project.

As proposed, however, the Penn East project unnecessarily threatens property rights at the Constitutional sword point of eminent domain, and offers no prospect of just compensation for the land it targets for lease or condemnation. The pipeline’s construction endangers an identifiable drinking water supply and fails to deliver the only lasting benefit that such a project can offer atfected neighborhoods: connection to natural gas. Thus, the Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders shall resolve to oppose the proposed configuration of the Penn East pipeline.

The Hunterdon County Board of Freeholder’s submission is available below:

Hunterdon County Freeholders Submissio – FERC Generated PDF

Hunterdon County Freeholders Submissio – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

The FERC is not here for the people, it’s here for the gas companies

A couple of contributors to the Stop Penneast pipeline Facebook page ( pointed out a presentation given by the FERC Office of Energy Projects last fall at the Maine Natural Gas Conference.

This presentation (available here) shows that FERC is indeed a cheerleader of the natural gas industry, and the purpose of this presentation seemed to be to help companies maximally exploit natural gas reserves all over the country.

There are a few smoking guns in this presentation.

Smoking Gun Number 1 – FERC knows that demand for natural gas in the US is very low. And will remain so for the foreseeable future.

This graphs shows projected consumption by type of consumer out to 2040:

  • Residential use of nat gas – flat.
  • Commercial use – flat.
  • Industrial use – flat.
  • Lease and plant fuel – flat.
  • Transportion – very moderate growth.
  • Electric power – moderate growth.
  • Exporting gas to foreign countries – massive growth.

Basically FERC is acknowledging that there is only one growth opportunity in the US for natural gas – electrical power generation.  This will grow modestly as power plants convert from coal to natural gas.  But this is only a modest gain, and cannot account for the billions of cubic feet coming out of regions like Marcellus every day.

FERC knows the only place for the majority of this excess gas to go is to exports.  This will be massively profitable as natural gas is extremely expensive in places like Asia.

If you live in NJ and PA – this gas will not materially benefit you.  FERC knows this. And I have bad news for all the people cheering the pipeline companies because you think your gas prices are going to plummet: they’re not. In fact, research and common sense says that your gas prices are likely going to climb modestly.

This is basic economics. Consumption is flagging in the U.S. Demand is surging in natural-gas poor areas like India and Asia. Natural gas is very expensive there. So the natural gas companies will maximize their profits by getting as much gas to expensive areas as possible.

A side effect of this is that your residential rates will go up slightly, because no one will want to ship gas to cheap residential customers when the LNG export stations are begging for suppliers.
Smoking gun number 2 – FERC knows there are a ton of pipelines in pre-filing stage

They know it and they trumpet it loudly. They purposefully evaluate them in isolation but they know these pipelines are all connected and are part of a master plan of the FERC and energy industry to maximize profits, but if they evaluated them together the ecological impact would be obvious and overwhelming.  Only by evaluating them individually can they hope to slip this past residents and state DEP officials.

Smoking gun number 3 – FERC knows about all the proposed pipelines

Look at that slide – it’s absolutely outrageous. Pipelines are criss crossing the country in this picture, and FERC is extremely satisfied with this result. Firms like Spectra Energy, a Penn East partner, crows about running pipelines all over the country to get gas “where the lights are”. What they mean is “where they can make the most money” – over seas.

Smoking gun number 4 – FERC knows and champions the proposed LNG export facilities

FERC knows there’s nowhere for all this gas to go in the U.S. They know the purpose of all this pipelines is to get the gas to facilities to turn the product into liquid natural gas (LNG) and ship it overseas. LNG is 600 times denser than nat gas in its natural state, so it’s highly efficient to ship it by LNG cargo ships this way. The ones in this slide are on top of the 4 LNG export stations already approved by the FERC.

And there’s another slide showing 13 more!

Those are bad enough. But the real smoking gun is yet to come. FERC says you – the residents, the home owners, the environmentally conscious, the teachers, the emergency responders, the individuals worried their drinking water will be contaminated forever, the non-profit organizations dedicated preserving our land and our heritage – YOU ARE IN THEIR WAY

If you are worried about this pipeline, FERC sees you as the enemy. You are a negative issue they must work around. You are an impediment to them helping gas companies reap billions of dollars from Marcellus shale. You an annoyance that irritates them and they really wish you would just go away so they get on with their jobs.

The final insult – there is not a word in this document about the ecology, conservation, or safety.

It is abundantly clear that FERC is a cheerleading organization who sees its mandate to facilitate big energy companies in any way they can. This isn’t about infrastructure for America. This is about money and profits for large industries.

Things you can do

There are things we can do collectively to help stop this pipeline and the many others like it.

Talk to your government representatives.

I think it’s clear that the laws have to change. The FERC should not be the sole agency in charge of approving pipeline and LNG projects. They are clearly not willing or capable to do the environmental surveys that they are required to. Write your Congressmen and Senators and demand that other agencies such as the EPA have the right to shut pipeline approvals down if they do not meet their standards. Demand that the Clean Water Act be upheld. Hold the government and the pipeline companies accountable.

Demand funding for government oversight.

Demand a tax on pipeline companies to fund more government regulation in the approval phases and oversight phases. Make them pay for the cost of these pipelines in full so we can ensure they are safe and ecologically sound. This will not bankrupt them. The whole FERC budget is a mere $175 million. This is a trillion dollar industry we’re talking about – a mere 1% tax would barely dent their budgets but would fund oversight quite easily.

Sue them.

If the FERC approves this pipeline, urge your town, county, and state to sue the FERC for violating their mandates. It’s been done before and people have won.

Force eminent domain.

Don’t give into the FERC and PennEast. Fight for your rights. Deny them access to your property, do not let them buy an easement. Force them to sue you. If enough people force PennEast to court it is likely they will just walk away, or at the very least choose a more sensible route that does not impact so many farmsteads, preserved areas, and ecologically delicate locations.

Write your state’s DEP.

Talk to your DEP representatives. They are our last line of defense. Even if FERC approves this pipeline Penn East must get approval from them before they can begin construction. Urge the DEP to hold PennEast to the letter of the law and protect our category 1 streams, our watersheds, our grand rivers like the Delaware.

Keep up the pressure.

Keep submitting to the FERC. Keep demanding to be heard. Keep up the protests. The FERC has noticed – and it’s worried. It’s worried congress will act and strip them of their regulatory approval capabilities. And they are right to be worried.  Help make their fears a reality.

More on PennEast trespassers

Brian’s FERC submission mentions trespass:

Also to address the continued trespassing of PennEast employees on private land, and the implications of allowing trespassers to continue violating landowners’ no trespassing notices, as well as FERC’s implicit approval of such trespassing by it’s acceptance of surveys that were obtained illegally.

PennEast Trespassers!
PennEast Trespassers – Alt Site!

Nora writes about trespassing:

3) Question 32 asks “When they come to get permission for signing the survey permission, what are their tactics that they use?” PennEast replies “If they are not able to reach the property owner by telephone, land agents will attempt to introduce themselves in person and will carry appropriate identification. If no one is home, they will leave contact information at the door.” My response to this is “We have posted No Trespassing signs all over our property. What gives PennEast agents the right to trespass on my property? Because of the rich wildlife that inhabits are property hunters and poachers illegally come onto our property. No one, unless invited, can trespass on our property!!!!

PennEast Trespassers!
PennEast Trespassers Alt Site!

Stephanie writes about trespassing:

PennEast workers are wrongfully trespassing to make their plans, and are extorting the use of Emanate Domain against people who have little time, little money to properly deal with it.

PennEast Trespassers!
PennEast Trespassers Alt Site!

Deborah King writes about PennEast trespassers:

PE representatives have already seriously compromised their credibility. They have cancelled meetings with communities because they cannot address the legitimate concerns raised by residents. Despite PE’s promises, they have yet to answer questions posed at the DE Twp September 29 meeting. They have used bogus math to exaggerate the tax benefits that communities would receive. And have misled residents about our rights and trespassed on my property.

PennEast Trespassers!

PennEast Trespassers Alt Site!

West Amwell Township Planning Board conveys their “strident opposition” to the pipeline

It’s funny that you can’t open a newspaper or watch the TV news without hearing another story of corrupt politicians, inept government, or just plain all around incompetence in the public sector. Yet how often do you hear a story about a government body doing the right thing?

Robert E. Tomenchok Jr, chairman of the West Amwell Township Planning Board, shows us government done right:

The West Amwell Township Planning Board wishes to convey our strident opposition to the proposed PennEast pipeline.

While we favor strongly the development of domestic energy resources, and support strenuously the free enterprise system, there are numerous aspects about this project with which we object.

1) The proposed route appears to have been chosen with little or no regard to the proximity of schools, emergency facilities, housing, wetlands, woodlands, historic structures/features, et cetera. The Planning Board strives to ensure that we leave West Amwell in better condition than we found it, and this project fails this simple test.

2) In most every aspect of governance home rule continues to be eroded, being slowly and systematically replaced by centralized control. The fact that we have so little control over such important decisions is aggravating, demoralizing, and causes many intelligent, caring citizens to eschew public service. Were it not for the fact that the pipeline crosses the Delaware River, it would have appropriate local input and control.

3) The threat of the exercise of Eminent Domain to secure land for a for-profit enterprise flies in the face of the free enterprise system. While we recognize that there exists a need for government to intervene in rare cases where intransigence stymies the public good, we feel that this project does not rise to that level.

4) The virginal nature of this pipeline should dictate even greater scrutiny. History shows that once a route has been established additional pipelines can and will follow. West Amwell is a rural community of mostly small farms with two large and two small housing developments. The proposed route has drawn objection across the demographic spectrum – from full time farmers to metropolitan commuters who come home to sleep in their tract homes.

Read the full submission below:

West Amwell Township Planning Board – FERC Generated PDF

West Amwell Township Planning Board – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Pressuring home owners to sign their rights away

Scott in Lehighton PA has a disturbing story:

In addition, I would like to let you know that about one week after we received our certified letter and barely had enough time to figure out what was going on, PennEast sent out a representative that came to my house early one Saturday morning. He wanted me to sign off on the easement rights to my property. When I began to question him, he had absolutely no answers to any of my questions. He did however state that I should sign off on my easement rights because most of my neighbors had already done so. Upon questioning my neighbors none of them told me that they had signed off on there easement rights. Therefore, I was lied to by PennEast Pipelines representative for the gain of the company. This seems to me to be unethical and unscrupulous business practices and should be addressed directly by you to them.

His full comments are available here:

Scott from Lehighton – FERC Generated PDF

Scott from Lehighton – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site