The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its order approving the Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company’s Leidy Southeast Expansion Project today.
The order states that the project will not result in any significant impacts. The order will allow pipeline construction to move forward, as well as allowing for pressure increases at a Transco compressor station in Mercer County. The approval comes amidst a proliferation of new fossil fuel infrastructure in New Jersey to support fracking operations in Pennsylvania. The pipeline will be expanded in Princeton and Montgomery as part of the project.
The New Jersey Sierra Club accused the federal government of rubberstamping another pipeline.
“This pipeline is being cut through New Jersey to serve utility companies in the South. This pipeline has nothing to do with bringing gas to people in New Jersey. We do not need the gas and we do not need the pipeline,” said Jeff Tittel, Director, New Jersey Sierra Club. “Once again FERC ignores the environment and public health and safety. This project will carry polluting fossil fuels through environmentally sensitive areas and across public lands and should have been rejected. 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 Sierra Club believes the environmental review for the project violates federal law by looking at the project’s many loops separately, and by not doing a thorough enough review on the cumulative impacts of the project. Environmentalists say 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 and the newly proposed Diamond East project.
Earlier this year, in Delaware Riverkeeper vs. FERC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia determined ignoring the impacts of other projects in the region, as done in this environmental assessment, violates the National Environmental Policy Act. Impacts from other projects Transco has recently completed in the region and those being constructed and proposed by Transco and other companies should have been evaluated, according to the court. Additionally the environmental assessment separated the review of pipeline projects into individual loops. By this method, only the localized impacts of each loop, not their combined, magnified impact is assessed.
The Transco Leidy Southeast project will have impacts on 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 environmentalists.
“This dirty infrastructure will cause irreparable harm here at home in the Princeton Ridge, Sourland Mountains, and other protected and environmentally sensitive areas. 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,” aid Kate Millsaps, conservation program coordinator for the New Jersey Sierra Club. “As a result of this pipeline, the communities the infrastructure runs through and those near drill sites will see more air and water pollution.”
Transco filed their application with FERC at the end of September 2013. The Leidy Southeast Expansion project includes the installation of more than 12 miles of 42-inch pipeline in New Jersey. The Skillman Loop will run 6.36 miles through Princeton and Montgomery Townships. The Pleasant Run Loop will run 6.85 miles in Branchburg, Readington, and Clinton Townships. The Pennsylvania portions of the project are in Luzerne and Monroe counties.
The gas running through the pipeline will serve customers in the South. The capacity of the pipeline is contracted to:
Anadarko Energy Services Company for 50,000 Dth per day;
Capitol Energy Ventures Corp. for 20,000 Dth per day;
MMGS Inc. for 50,000 Dth per day;
Piedmont Natural Gas Company for 100,000 Dth per day;
Public Service Company of North Carolina, Inc. for 100,000 Dth per day;
South Carolina Electric & Gas Company for 40,000 Dth per day; and
Washington Gas Light Company for 165,000 Dth per day.
Since 2006, Transco’s pipelines have been involved in at least 50 gas transmission incidents. Last year an incident occurred at their pipeline in Branchburg, injuring 13 workers. This year Transco experienced two major incidents at pipeline facilities. In West Virginia, a pipeline exploded burning down 2 acres of forest. In Wyoming a pipeline caught on fire resulting in the evacuation of 95 residents.
“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. This line not only threatens the neighborhoods it passes through, but threatens our environment.”