There’s been lots in the news lately about proposed new natural gas pipelines. And you’ve probably noticed serious opposition from landowners, environmental groups and elected officials.
That’s because New Jersey has found itself dead center in the face of a new type of sprawl. Right now, our little state has 1,520 miles of existing natural gas pipelines with enough capacity to supply New Jerseyans even in the coldest weather. But if we don’t change course soon, we won’t be the Garden State – we’ll be the Pipeline State!
So many people are asking, “Do we need more pipelines?” The simple answer is, “No.”
Three years ago, the PennEast pipeline was proposed to carry fracked shale gas from northeastern Pennsylvania across the Delaware River and into New Jersey’s Hunterdon and Mercer counties.
Landowners, communities, agencies and elected officials wanted to understand why. So they did their research, mobilized with their neighbors and communities, and hired experts. Here’s what they found:
- New supplies of natural gas are not needed in New Jersey – now or in the future. In fact the proposed PennEast pipeline would displace gas in existing gas pipelines.
- The cost of building the pipeline would fall on the backs of consumers and raise the costs of natural gas for ratepayers! (This is based on findings from the NJ Rate Counsel and an independent gas industry consultant.)
- The PennEast pipeline would run through over 4,300 acres of preserved farmlands and open space and cross 38 of our highest quality streams.
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval means that the companies behind the PennEast pipeline can seek to seize land from private homeowners, towns and land trusts such as ours for the pipeline construction.
- The private companies behind the PennEast pipeline stand to get a guaranteed 14 percent rate of return on their investment, and that is what is really driving this project, not public need.
Yikes! No wonder every single town and county along the proposed pipeline route oppose it. So do the vast majority of the impacted homeowners.
In spite of all of these findings, FERC gave conditional approval to the proposed 120-mile PennEast pipeline last week. FERC granted a “Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity” and gave PennEast the authority to attempt to take land from homeowners.
While that may sound like the end of the story – and one more step to becoming the dreaded Pipeline State – it’s not. This pipeline can be stopped!
The project still needs permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and other agencies.
Why is the NJDEP involved? Because this state agency oversees and enforces water quality and wetlands protections under the federal Clean Water Act, and they must determine the pipeline’s impacts using far more stringent standards. Since the PennEast pipeline would cross 38 pristine “Category 1” streams, the state’s highest water quality ranking, this is important. These streams have some of the purest water in the state and the pipeline would cause irreparable harm to these Delaware River tributaries. In addition, independent scientists warn that pipeline construction would increase the risk of arsenic – a toxin naturally present in the region’s bedrock – contaminating drinking water supplies!
And that’s not all. The pipeline must also receive approval from the Delaware River Basin Commission, which can use its broad, independent authority to protect water supply and quality in the Delaware River and its tributaries.
While FERC got it wrong, New Jersey can get it right!
Let’s urge Governor Murphy and new Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe to strongly enforce our environmental laws and regulations. If they do, this unneeded pipeline will be stopped.
Here’s how you can help: Let Governor Murphy and the NJDEP know you’re counting on them to hold PennEast fully accountable to New Jersey’s more stringent laws and regulations. Go to https://secure3.convio.net/njcf/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=213 to stop this pipeline and make sure New Jersey stays the Garden State, not the Pipeline State.
For more information about the PennEast proposal, and other pipelines proposed in New Jersey, go to the ReThink Energy NJ website at https://rethinkenergynj.org.
And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele S. Byers is executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation in Morristown.