WCAS opposes PennEast Pipeline's route through Important Bird Areas

PennEast would create a 2.6 mile long “Baldpate Mohawk” up to 195′ deep into Baldpate Mountain Important Bird Area’s forest

OVERVIEW

The proposed 114-mile PennEast Pipeline would transport natural gas from west of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to Blackwell Rd. in Hopewell Township, New Jersey crossing seven Important Bird Areas in both states. PennEast would start at the exact same place and end less than six miles away from just completed Williams/Transco “Leidy Southeast” expansion. PennEast requires a “Certificate of Public Need and Necessity” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to proceed with eminent domain condemnations and construction.

IMPACTS

Washington Crossing Audubon is particularly concerned about PennEast’s impacts to Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain in Hopewell Township. PennEast threatens over 4,300 acres of preserved lands, forests, farms, wetlands, and protected streams. PennEast would cross significant natural and historic resources in both PA and NJ including the Kittatinny Ridge Global IBA in Pennsylvania, the Appalachian Trail, as well as several NJ Natural Heritage Priority Sites. PennEast would cross the Susquehanna, Lehigh, and Delaware Rivers, “Exceptional Value” streams in Pennsylvania and thirty-two critical “Category One” (C1) streams in New Jersey.

40% of PennEast’s New Jersey route would cross five Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in New Jersey including seven miles through the Sourlands and Baldpate Mountain IBAs. PennEast would loop through five miles of famed Kittatinny Ridge Global IBA in Pennsylvania. In 2014 US Fish & Wildlife Service asked PennEast to Avoid permanent habitat alterations in areas where birds are highly concentrated. Examples of high concentration areas for birds are wetlands, State or Federal refuges, Audubon Important Bird Areas [IBAs]”—USFWS Adaptive Management Practices for Conserving Migratory Birds.

FERC released their Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on April 7, 2017

Even though FEIS remains extremely data deficient due to only ~30% survey access in New Jersey, FERC issued a routine finding of no significant impact: The final EIS assesses the potential environmental effects of the construction and operation of the Project in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. The FERC staff concludes that approval of the Project would result in some adverse environmental impacts; however, these impacts would be reduced to less than significant levels with the implementation of PennEast’s proposed mitigation and the additional measures recommended by staff in the final EIS.” FERC has not yet given PennEast their “Certificate” that would start the eminent domain process in court.Even then PennEast still needs critical permits from agencies such as NJDEP, EPA, USFWS, USACEO before proceeding with construction. NJDEP can stop PennEast.

WHAT TO DO NOW???

The onus is on agencies to approve or deny critical permits without which PennEast cannot proceed. Please…

Report rare species sightings to NJDEP. PennEast needs critical Water Quality and Wetlands permits before they can proceed. Let NJDEP know your concerns!

NJDEP WANTS TO KNOW ABOUT RARE WILDLIFE AND SPECIES ALONG THE ROUTE

Report and document all rare wildlife sightings with photos and GPS (can use your SmartPhone to take GPS-tagged photos;) to NJDEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP). Mention PennEast as threat in appropriate form field and email header.  Copy Ruth Foster ruth.foster@dep.nj.gov and John Gray john.gray@dep.nj.gov on all reports.

Links to lists: NJ State Endangered and Threatened Species   NJ Species of Special Concern
Instructions here: New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
Use the Rare Wildlife Sighting Report Form on NJDEP website

RARE PLANTS

Report to New Jersey Natural Heritage Program through Special Plants of New Jersey lists and reporting page documented with photos and GPS. Mention PennEast as threat in appropriate form field and email header. CC NJDEP officials handling PennEast in your emails (more info to come.)

REPORT ALL PennEast CONCERNS, FEIS ERRORS, and DEFICIENCIES directly to NJDEP’s 
Office of Permit Coordination and Environmental Review

Ruth W. Foster, PhD., P.G, Acting Director
401 East State St.
P.O. Box 420
Trenton, NJ 08625
(609) 292-3600
(609) 292-1921 (fax)
ruth.foster@dep.nj.gov

John Gray, Deputy Chief of Staff
401 East State St.
Mail code: 401-07J
P.O. Box 420
Trenton, NJ 08625
(609) 633-7660
john.gray@dep.nj.gov

WHERE WE ARE NOW:

Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) released April 7, 2017

Even though FEIS remains extremely data deficient due to only ~30% survey access in New Jersey, FERC issued a routine finding of no significant impact: The final EIS assesses the potential environmental effects of the construction and operation of the Project in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. The FERC staff concludes that approval of the Project would result in some adverse environmental impacts; however, these impacts would be reduced to less than significant levels with the implementation of PennEast’s proposed mitigation and the additional measures recommended by staff in the final EIS.”  Read or download Penneast Pipeline Project: Final Environmental Impact Statement, Volume I from FERC’s website here: https://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20170407-4001 Main summary is “PennEast FEIS_TEXT_April2017.PDF.”  Search PennEast Docket # CP15-558 on FERC’s website for older filings and submissions: http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20161108-3025

There is no public comment period for the FEIS. FERC is without a quorum and cannot make a decision to approve or deny PennEast until a new commissioner is appointed. Once FERC has a quorum, they could immediately issue PennEast a Certificate, even before usual 30 days ends May 7, 2017 due to a legal “exception.” FERC would then grant PennEast eminent domain authority to access lands. FERC must decide before 90-day Federal Authorization Deadline expires July 6, 2017.

Update: “Trump on Monday night announced that Robert Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, and Neil Chatterjee, a senior energy policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), would be his first two picks to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)… A third position remains open, with many FERC observers expecting Trump to name Kevin McIntyre, who co-leads law firm Jones Day’s global energy practice. Powelson and Chatterjee, along with McIntyre, are Republicans.” https://thinkprogress.org/trump-announces-two-nominees-for-ferc-df6004e31ff

Please direct all concerns to NJDEP (see above) and your Federal and State Legislators including Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez.

Visit http://rethinkenergynj.org/ for regular updates and to sign-up to receive breaking alerts.

WCAS STATEMENT ON PENNEAST DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT (DEIS) RELEASED JULY 22, 2016

“On July 22 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the PennEast pipeline, which stated that there are no significant environmental impacts from the proposed pipeline and that any impacts can be mitigated. The DEIS is based on incomplete data and glosses over the impact on multiple issues, including stream quality and wildlife. The bird data from the seven Important Bird Areas (IBAs) transversed by the proposed pipeline are especially sparse. The DEIS is now in the public comment period which ends September 12. It is vitally important that FERC hear as many objections to the DEIS as possible. Please consider commenting on the DEIS and asking FERC to withdraw this very flawed document…Letters submitted to the PennEast Docket (#CP15-558-000) should demand that FERC withdraw the DEIS, demand that FERC extend the public comment period until the missing data is incorporated into the DEIS, and point out specific problems in the DEIS, including missing or misleading information and issues that are either ignored or inadequately covered.”—Sharyn Magee, President, Washington Crossing Audubon Society.

PENNEAST HAS FAILED TO ESTABLISH TRUE PUBLIC NEED

“The PennEast pipeline alone would bring an additional one billion cubic feet per day of gas to Southeast Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and result in a 53% surplus beyond current demand in New Jersey, according to a study by the Labryinth Consulting Group. The Labryinth Study also concluded that “existing interstate pipelines supply all of New Jersey’s natural gas demands,” and that the true intent of the project is to deliver gas to other downstream markets.”—ReThink Energy NJ

NJ Rate Counsel on PennEast

In a rebuke to a proposed natural-gas pipeline, the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel argued that the applicant has failed to demonstrate the PennEast project is needed and fails to justify the profits that would be earned from it.”

A CONCERNED COALITION

A statewide coalition of environmental groups, ‘citizens against the pipeline’ (CAP) groups and private property owners are all working to stop PennEast including, but not limited to, the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, Sourlands Conservancy, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, ReThink Energy NJ, Sierra Club, Environment New Jersey, Clean Water Action NJ, Food & Water Watch, Hopewell Township Citizens Against the Pipeline, West Amwell Citizens Against the Pipeline, Delaware Township Citizens Against the Pipeline, etc. and HALTPennEast.

PennEast’s circa 114 mile route from Dallas just west of Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County, PA to Hopewell Township, NJ.

New Jersey can STOP PennEast by denying them a required 401 Water Quality Certificate, just as NY State denied Constitution Pipeline a WQ Cert. PennEast crosses over 30 of New Jersey’s finest “Category 1” protected “anti-degradation” streams including the Lockatong (below), Wickecheoke and Nishisackawick Creeks. NJDEP has the delegated federal authority to enforce the Clean Water Act in NJ, read more: princetonhydro_20150302-508330224899 

PennEast crosses 4,300 acres of preserved lands, forests, wetlands and farms including the Wickecheoke Valley in Rosemont Historic District (below) home to New Jersey’s only covered bridge and Pleasant Valley Historic District in Mercer County, home to Howell Living History Farm.

40% of PennEast’s NJ route crosses five NJ Important Bird Areas totaling est. 36 miles: Musconetcong Gorge, Everittstown Grasslands, Sourland Mountain Region, Baldpate Mountain, Pole Farm IBAs.

Friends of Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain organized a walk along the proposed PennEast Pipeline on April 20, 2016. Video details proposed devastation to this special place.