PRESS RELEASE from Delaware Riverkeeper Network
Opponents of the proposed PennEast pipeline submitted a letter today to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) outlining concerns with the upcoming scoping meetings scheduled to begin next week. They are calling on FERC to extend the scoping period and satisfactorily address the issues they’ve identified.
FERC has announced five scoping meetings, which are supposed to give citizens a chance to present environmental concerns about the proposed PennEast natural gas pipeline.
The scoping sessions are supposed to be about ensuring FERC has a full understanding of the issues that need to be considered in the environmental reviews it is undertaking. A short process with little notice and limited hearings in poor locations in relation to the pipeline proposed is an obvious tactic by FERC to avoid conducting the full, fair and honest review that is required of PennEast. We are disappointed but not surprised. We hope they will reverse course and give the community the additional time and access they need to be fully and fairly engaged in the public process — after all, FERC is supposed to be about serving the public not the pipeline companies,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper
“We need FERC to do its job and require more meetings and an open process for these scoping hearings, For far too long FERC has sided with the industry it is supposed to regulate instead of the people it is supposed to work for. The PennEast Pipeline would cut an ugly scar through environmentally sensitive area, cause environmental harm and is dangerous .We need FERC to do its job and allow for more public input and scrutinize this damaging project ,” said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club.
Instead, communities fighting the pipeline have found the plans for and announcements of the meetings to be inadequate. Among the problems they cite in their letter are that:
- They were scheduled a mere two weeks after PennEast announced a pipeline route change, providing citizens with insufficient time to identify their environmental concerns.
- PennEast has failed to provide detailed maps of the route, making it nearly impossible to citizens to identify their environmental concerns in any case.
- The public was given insufficient notice to prepare for the meetings after they were announced.
- No meetings are scheduled in Hunterdon County, NJ, the area of that state where much of the pipeline is to be built.
- Only one meeting is being held in New Jersey, the origin of most of the opposition to the pipeline.
- Most meetings are in locations nowhere near the pipeline’s route (some as far as 40 miles away), making them very inconvenient for citizens to attend.
- All meetings start at 6:00 p.m., making it difficult for people to get there after work, especially considering their remote locations.
- Meetings are in locations with insufficient parking and inadequate parking options for the disabled.
- FERC has provided is insufficient information about the meetings’ locations, i.e., no building or room numbers within a college campus, making them difficult to find.
Groups fighting the pipeline and residents along its proposed path are frustrated with FERC’s handling of the scoping meetings.
“As a concerned resident of Hunterdon County, I am very disconcerted that FERC would provide only One Week’s notice in the Federal Register about the Scoping Hearings which start on January 27th,” said Joan McGee from the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association. She continued that she subscribes to all Federal Register announcements and received the notice of the scoping hearings on the morning of January 21st. “Less than One Week’s notice is unacceptable.” She continued, “This is an issue which affects all New Jersey residents and they should all be given the chance to publicly comment.” The notice which is given does not allow adequate public participation.
“We can expect such tactics from a profit-seeking firm; we should NOT have to expect them from a Federal commission,” said Kim Robinson, a resident of Hopewell Township.
“The lack of meetings in impacted NJ towns and the short notice is outrageous! Being blindsided like this is a far cry from the “”fair and transparent” process we were promised by PennEast and FERC and does not give communities the ability to exercise the full “scope” of their concerns,” said Patty Cronheim, Hopewell Township Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline.
“You’d think that FERC didn’t want to know about environmental concerns with this pipeline, considering how little notice they’re giving for the scoping meetings and how far away and inconvenient they are,” said Laura Mirsky, Concerned Citizens Against the Pipeline, Holland Township, NJ.
“I find it disturbing that I have to drive an hour to get my family and other residents burdened by the threat of proposed Penn East Pipeline to the FERC meeting. With only have a week’s notice to make these arrangements for the most important issue in the history of our community,” said Tina Venini, Durham Township, PA.
“Property owners in Carbon County haven’t recovered from the shock of learning that their property is now in the revised pipeline pathway. It is way too early to ask them to adequately assess the possible impacts on their immediate environment. If we truly want to give them a meaningful opportunity for input, a delay is in order,” said Linda Christman of Carbon Pipeline Alliance.
“It is unacceptable that a federal agency is so clearly failing the people they’re meant to serve. We live in a democracy and at the very core of any democracy is a commitment to universal participation. The lack of real public notice, easily accessible meetings, and time to properly prepare expert testimony is a clear dereliction of their duty as a public agency. The FERC scoping process has left the communities who would be torn apart by PennEast Pipeline wondering who FERC is really working for. Is FERC a regulatory commission protecting the interests of the people or an agency certifying prospectors as public utilities in their quest to make a quick buck? The public deserves a real chance to have their voices heard,” said Brendan Keating, Chatham Citizens.
Diane Dreier, Vice President of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, recalls similar problems with the PennEast Open Houses held last fall. “The Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition of Luzerne County, PA, has concerns about the planned meetings announced by FERC regarding the PennEast Pipeline Project. There are too few meetings scheduled and the meeting venues and early starting times are not convenient to the public, said Dreier. “Although the proposed Penn East Pipeline would traverse a large section of Luzerne County, there was only one PennEast Pipeline open house in the county and the starting time was 5:30 – a time when many people are just getting out of work. In addition, that meeting was held at Coughlin High School in Wilkes-Barre where there was inadequate convenient public parking, no handicap parking, and no visible handicap access.There was a general lack of information and outreach regarding this pipeline project in Luzerne County.”
In at least one municipality, local officials are doing what they can to prepare their constituents.
“Due to the last minute nature of the notice, the Hopewell Township Committee must hold an emergency meeting to ensure that our residents will have their voices heard. I encourage FERC to work with the elected officials to extend the scoping period. As their democratic representatives, we have a duty to assure our residents that their government is working for them, not for special interest groups,” said Vanessa Sandom, Committee Member, Hopewell Township.
“The taxpayers of Hopewell Township deserve a fair chance to have their voices heard. We have invested years of hard work and millions of taxpayer dollars to preserve open space. We need more than ten days to address the environmental destruction threatened by this pipeline. With PennEast announcing the alternate route just days ago, the scoping period is not sufficient. Any honest and thorough examination of its potential environmental impact would take months, not days. That’s why I am encouraging FERC to extend the scoping period to 120 days,” said Sandom.
The scoping meetings are scheduled, all at 6:00 p.m., January 27, at the College of New Jersey, Ewing (Mercer County) NJ; January 28, at Bucks County Community College, Newtown, PA; February 10, Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, PA; February 11, Penn’s Peak, Jim Thorpe, PA & February 12, Best Western Hotel, Wilkes Barre, PA.
- Karen Feridun, Berks Gas Truth, 610-678-7726, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, 215 369 1188 ext 102 (rings office & Cell)
- Kristen McCarthy, Delaware Township Citizens Against the Pipeline, email@example.com
- Patty Cronheim, Hopewell Township Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline, 609-558-2564, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kim Robinson, Hopewell Township Resident, 609 737-3796
- Joan McGee, Stony Brook – Millstone Watershed Association, 609-737-3735, extension 29, email@example.com