The Nishisakawick Creek

Eric from Frenchtown, NJ writes about the threat the pipeline is to the environment around his home on the Nishisakawick Creek. The story quickly goes from talking about bald eagle citings to mention of a horrific 36″ gas pipeline explosion in the 90s in Edison, NJ:

I have read just about every comment submitted to date, regarding the proposed PennEast pipeline – I’m sure FERC has, as well. Aside from a handful of comments from individuals, ALL of the remarks favoring this project (perhaps a dozen) are from those that will directly profit from it. Utility companies & union representatives are all raving about the public benefit. This is in stark contrast to the hundreds of comments from the land owners, local governments, scientists, environmental groups, and individuals who view this project as a potential disaster. Why?

For the record, I live in Frenchtown, NJ and my home is adjacent to the Nishisakawick Creek. This stream has a C1 classification and for good reason. It is home to many species of animals that are endangered and/or threatened through loss of habitat. Three weeks ago, my wife and I had the pleasure of watching this bald eagle hunting next to our house:

As of 2012, there were only 119 breeding pairs of eagles in the state of NJ. Over the years I have also had the joy of viewing goshawk, bobcat, and corn snakes in our backyard, which are all classified as endangered by the NJDEP. Not to mention, the black bear, owls, heron, fox, coyote, deer, and dozens of other species that make regular appearances during the year. The stream is pristine and FERC should reject the PennEast proposal, out-of-hand, on this basis alone.

However, aside from the huge environmental impact this project will have, I am equally concerned about my family’s safety. Our home is located well within the thermal radius of the pipeline should it rupture. And in spite of all of the assurances from PennEast, NO ONE can erase the memory I have of the Durham Woods pipeline explosion in 1994. The flames were so high, I thought that my neighbor’s house was on fire, yet we were over 25 miles away. If this were to happen in Hunterdon, putting out the ensuing fires would be next to impossible, as our rural community relies on water tanker shuttles. Just how will PennEast handle a massive forest fire fueled by thousands of cubic feet per second of natural gas? Put simply, they can’t.

I took the time to carefully read PennEast’s “Draft Resource Report 1 and Summary of Alternatives.” In my humble opinion, the sections outlining project necessity and project alternatives were inadequate to say the least. According to PennEast’s report, the binding reservations during their “open season” demonstrated the need for this project. This is fallacious, as it only proves that members of the PennEast consortium (Spectra, UGI et al) want access to cheaper natural gas. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the existing pipeline infrastructure in NJ/NY can meet current firm demand without any problem. And recently, FERC has approved many major pipeline improvement projects to address future demand. Expansion projects with expected in-service dates between 2013 and 2015 have or will “add at least 3.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of additional capacity to New York/New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic markets.” These include the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co.’s Leidy Southeast Expansion & Virginia Southside Expansion Projects, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s Line 300 Expansion, Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co.’s Bayonne Delivery Lateral Project, Algonquin Gas Transmission’s Hubline/East to West Project, and Texas Eastern’s Transmission pipeline expansion project from Linden, New Jersey to Manhattan, New York.

New Jersey is already awash in gas transmission pipelines meeting current & future demand, and yet the gas industry insists that we need more. This is complete and utter nonsense and we certainly don’t need to cut across every Category One stream in our state to have another.

The explosion he mentions was written up in the New York times. According to the wikipedia article on the explosion:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edison,_New_Jersey_natural_gas_explosion

…was caused by a rupture in a 36″ natural gas pipeline.  Not too coincidentally, PennEast is a 36″ natural gas pipeline.

Eric’s submission is available below:

Eric’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Eric’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Who benefits again exactly?

Michael in Pennington has a very in-depth submission to the ferc.gov.  What he (and everyone else) is wondering about is: who will this benefit again exactly?  Not vague assurances and statistics, but actual quantifiable results?

Ill perceived benefits

As I write, the the Penn East Pipeline Company is seeking approval from FERC to place a pipeline through our community. I have attended meetings and listened to presentations by their representatives who continue to tow the party line that the pipeline will be beneficial to the community because of the savings for the cost of gas and for the creation of new jobs.

Meanwhile, there are neighborhoods in the community through which the proposed pipeline would traverse that does not even have gas service. The gas distribution company in the area- PSE&G- which is also a member of the Penn East Pipeline Company conglomerate admittedly has no plans for service upgrades to serve the residents of those communities. Additionally, there is no specificity and no commitment for a set reduction in or delivery price for gas. The savings are neither quantifiable nor do they appear to be better than the rates that will be offered to communities that will not be impacted by the pipeline. In other types of government subsidized or enabled projects there are incentives to businesses and concessions made by those businesses that provide direct, quantified benefit to the citizens. One such example would be tax credits that are given to real estate developers for providing low or middle income housing. In these models there is a precise quantifiable benefit to private corporations and also a quantifiable benefit or value to citizens. The FERC model of review and grant of eminent domain to private entities does not even come close to quantifying a benefit to citizens. This is extremely problematic and disconcerting considering there is a taking of resources from ordinary citizens and licensing them to private businesses.

I have the same trouble with the PennEast assertions that this is good for our area.  There are assertions that the pipeline will have enough capacity to service “4.7 million homes” in the area.   This is a nonsense statistic.  According to the U.S. census bureau there are only 3,186,418 households in the entire state of NJ and 4,958,427 in all of PA.  Does PennEast really expect us to believe this one pipeline is going to power the equivalent of 57% of all the households in the two states?

Of course not all households are served by natural gas, and households aren’t the only consumers.

So let’s go to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s page and see what actual energy use in PA and NJ is:

NJ Monthly natural gas usage

PA Monthly natural gas usage

These graphs show the monthly usage breakdown for each in millions of cubic feet. Unfortunately they only do states, not regions, so we can only get the entire state breakdown. For reference the PennEast pipeline will deliver one billion cubic feet a day, so divide the table’s numbers by 30 (avg days in a month) to see how they compare to PennEast’s production.

NJ’s peak usage across all categories was 1.6 billion cubic feet a day.
PA’s peak usage across all categories was 2.9 billion cubic feet a day.

For a total of 4.5 billion cubic feet a day.

This mean’s the PennEast pipeline has enough natural gas flowing through it to supply more than 20% of both states natural gas needs combined.

Now shrink those numbers down to “Eastern PA and central NJ”, as PenNEast claims they’ll be helping, and this number climbs in excess of 100% of the total natural gas usage in the region.

Do you still believe PennEast is going to be using this natural gas in just our region? Or do you suspect – as I and many people do – that PennEast is going to send this to a Liquid conversion plant for shipping overseas (where gas is much more expensive)?

Michael’s full comments are available here

Michael’s full comments – Alternate Site