Opinion: ‘Gimmick’ is how future pipelines will avoid environmental and permitting issues

PennEast Pipeline Logo (PRNewsfoto/PennEast Pipeline Company)

What if PennEast could secure a pipeline through Hopewell without having to apply for a single permit?


Recently, several residents, who live along Jacobs Creek, received a letter from a representative of Sunoco Logistics Partners LP (Sunoco) that it had filed an application for an “Emergency Repair” permit with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), that they had 15 days to visit the DEP offices or the township clerk’s office to examine Sunoco’s application and file any objections. Unbeknownst to all residents with whom we spoke, including several who have lived along the creek for over 50 years, there is an underground pipeline beneath Jacobs Creek, which is the subject of the Sunoco permit.


Sunoco’s letter proposes “Two (2) 1250-foot HDD [horizontal directional drill] pipeline strings,” a replacement and an additional pipeline, or two new pipelines. Why have a pipeline beneath a fresh water stream in the first place? The creek is a source for wildlife, including birds, deer, red foxes, raccoons, and other small animals, to drink and bathe.  And yes, this is the same creek that General George Washington and his ragtag army traversed to surprise the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton, changing the course of the Revolutionary War. Since this pipeline predates the 1970s, we have learned much about the ecology of streams, wetlands and the flora and fauna in the habitat that the creek supports.


According to Sunoco’s 2016 SEC Form 10-K, Sunoco plans to transport NGLs [natural gas liquids] from the Marcellus and Utica Shale areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio east, through Northern Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River to Northern New Jersey, then south through New Jersey, and then west, back across the Delaware River at Jacobs Creek, into Pennsylvania and south, down to its Marcus Hook refinery. With the “total takeaway capacity to 345 thousand barrels per day.”


There is a global glut of fossil fuels, they at historically low prices, another fracker, Chesapeake Energy, just filed for bankruptcy, and renewable energy is cheap. Therefore, these pipelines are unnecessary. PennEast has been unsuccessfully trying to put a pipeline through this area for years. Is Sunoco/PennEast just using this “Emergency Repair” Permit Application as a ruse to install two new pipelines, circumventing the necessary permit process? Then, afterwards, Sunoco could sell or lease these pipelines, maybe even to PennEast?


If this ploy is successful here, maybe this gimmick is how future pipelines will avoid environmental and permitting issues: find an old pipeline, get a permit for “repair,” in which it is actually replaced, then sneak in an additional pipeline. This would yield two brand new pipelines and avoid the messy business of having to apply for all those nasty permits. Genius!


This is exceedingly worrisome.


Shirley and Jonathan Allen