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Environmental Group Criticizes Federal Review of Williams Transco Gas Pipeline Project

gaspiplineThe New Jersey Sierra Club is arguing that the environmental assessment prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regarding  the Williams Transco Leidy Southeast Expansion Project is incomplete and violates federal law.  The group is calling for a full environmental impact statement.

“Once again FERC ignores the public when it comes to the impacts of these pipelines. What is worse, they are ignoring the environmental and health and safety impacts, and also now the law. Clearly FERC is not looking at secondary and cumulative impacts, violating NEPA, and must comply,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “For far too long FERC has been on the side of the companies it is supposed to regulate rather than the people they are supposed to work for, us.”

The FERC environmental assessment claims the project will not result in any significant impacts, even though pipeline will cross environmentally sensitive areas, streams and forests, and critical habitat.

“The Sierra Club believes the environmental assessment violates federal law by reviewing the project’s many loops separately and by not doing a thorough enough review on the cumulative impacts of the project,” reads a statement by the Sierra Club. “The report ignores the additional fracking the pipeline will encourage in the areas the projects connects to by expanding capacity as well as the cumulative regional impacts resulting from other projects such Transco’s recently completed Northeast Supply Link project. Sierra Club is calling for a full Environmental Impact Statement to be prepared for the project.”

Earlier this year in the lawsuit Delaware Riverkeeper vs. FERC, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia determined that ignoring the affects of other projects in the region is a violation of federal law. Impacts from other projects Transco has recently completed in the region and those being constructed and proposed by other companies must be evaluated.

The FERC environmental assessment on the Transco expansion project that will cut through Montgomery and Princeton seperates the review of pipeline projects into individual loops. By this method only the localized impacts of each loop, and not their combined impact, is assessed. The  Sierra Club also says the environmental assessment fails to provide a thorough review of the resulting cumulative impacts from additional future shale gas development.

“This project is being constructed specifically to serve fracking operations in Pennsylvania and the anticipated increase in Marcellus Shale development allowed by this expansion must be evaluated as an environmental consequence of the project,” reads the New Jersey Sierra Club Statement.

The project will affect environmentally sensitive areas across Hunterdon, Somerset, and Mercer Counties. The route crosses the Princeton Ridge, Sourland Mountains, and a number of preserved lands. The pipeline will have significant impacts on waterways, critical habitat, and forested areas, according to the New Jersey Sierra Club.

“This dirty infrastructure will cause irreparable harm here at home in the Princeton Ridge, Sourland Mountains, and other protected and environmentally sensitive areas,” said Kate Millsaps, conservation program coordinator for the New Jersey Sierra Club. “FERC is not only ignoring and writing off these impacts, but also the damage this project will have on the region by allowing fracking operations to move more gas to market and increase production. As a result of this pipeline, the communities the infrastructure runs through and those near drill sites will see more air and water pollution.”

The Leidy Southeast Expansion project would install over 12 miles of 42 inch pipeline in New Jersey. The Skillman Loop would run 6.36 miles through Princeton and Montgomery Townships. The Pleasant Run Loop would run 6.85 miles in Branchburg, Readington, and Clinton Townships. The Pennsylvania portions of the project are in Luzerne and Monroe counties. The comment period on the environmental assessment ended yesterday.

 

“There is no need for this pipeline. The purpose is to promote fracking and the burning of fossil fuels that impact clean water and promote climate change,” Tittel said. “This pipeline is going to go through environmentally sensitive areas creating an ugly scar, adding to pollution, and putting people at risk. Just ask the people of Bellingham Washington, Burlingame, California and Edison, NJ. This line not only threatens the neighborhoods it passes through but threatens our environment.”

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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