Opponents of the PennEast pipeline sent a strong message to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at its public hearing in Clinton on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the PennEast Pipeline by refusing to comply with a ‘public participation' process that cut out both the public and the ability to meaningfully participate. Commenters read a prepared statement that cited the failures of the process and of the DEIS itself to take into account the many issues that have been raised since the project was first proposed. The statement concludes by informing the FERC that the people will not be ignored.
FERC's process gave impacted landowners, concerned community members, and environmental advocates only 25 days to prepare comments on the 1,174 page document for events that turned out not to be public hearings at all. The FERC abandoned the traditional public hearing meeting format where the audience is able to hear the concerns of their neighbors in favor of having commenters deliver their testimony to transcriptionists in private.
As issued, the DEIS clearly ignores the thousands of comments entered onto the project's docket during the intervention and scoping phases last year. In spite of detailed comments, including many from experts on subjects ranging from environmental science to economics, the FERC determined that the environmental impacts would be manageable. Commenters who reviewed the 1,174 page document saw no mention whatsoever of the issues they had raised.
"FERC has once again demonstrated its tremendous bias for, and partnership with, the pipeline industry. Recognizing that public hearings which allowed the public to hear one another testify was a valuable source of community education and mutual support, FERC is now forcing people to give their testimony in secret, with only a transcriber to hear their words. The hearings have become a mere diversion, preventing people from focusing on writing strong public comment for the record while they struggle to craft 3 minutes of testimony that is meaningful and makes sense. The Community Comment offers strength in numbers and allows folks to focus on their written comments rather than 3 minutes of testimony that will only be heard in secret by FERC representatives," explained Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
"FERC needs to remember it works for the people of the United States not PennEast a greedy, dirty, dangerous fossil fuel cartel intent on abusing people's property rights, contaminating their drinking water, wreaking havoc over New Jersey's protected open space, and destroying our climate," said David Pringle, NJ Campaign Director, Clean Water Action. "Will FERC open up the process and provide meaningful response to public comment or continue as a wholly owned subsidiary of the industry it's supposed to regulate? And they wonder why folks are losing faith in vested institutions!".
"FERC's Draft Environmental Impact Statement is a disaster. It is a rush job which deliberately excludes environmental impacts all across the Delaware River watershed and it was released to minimize public input," said Doug O'Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey. "PennEast is intentionally sabotaging environmental protections and papering over violations of the Clean Water Act. FERC should not be aiding and abetting the applicant. We need the public to call out FERC for their complicity and to call on the NJDEP and the DRBC to act independently to deny PennEast from ever desecrating our Delaware River watershed."
"PennEast will destroy our C-1 stream, vernal pools, and old wooded wetlands, the home and breeding area for many Threatened and Endangered Species, including Red-shouldered hawks, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and Eastern Box Turtles," said Dennis and Joan Kager, members of HALT and landowners from Kingwood Township.
Landowners like the Kagers have been commenting on the docket for nearly two years and feel as if their concerns and the research many have done substantiating those concerns have been overlooked in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
"In New Jersey's Sourland Mountain region alone, the proposed PennEast pipeline cuts a swath through a region recognized for its unique ecology, history and geology – a true island of biodiversity in central New Jersey. Acres of agricultural land, forests, wetlands, private and public preserved land, streams and historic areas will be impacted in ways that can never be mitigated. Regardless of these devastating facts, FERC's Draft Environmental Impact Statement has not taken into account the many comments that have already been submitted, has not given the public enough time to review and comment on a 1,174 page long document and is not allowing a true hearing at which we can hear what our neighbors have to say. What else can we conclude from this but that FERC's priority is approving this project for the benefit of the PennEast companies, all else be damned. We won't allow this to happen. We are determined, strong and united and we will not stop until we stop PennEast," said Caroline Katmann, Executive Director, Sourland Conservancy.
"The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission epitomizes everything that is wrong with our bureaucracy. The insult added to the injury of a Draft EIS that dismisses thousands of comments submitted by the public is this preposterous process for reviewing the report. Tonight's hearing is taking place just 25 days after the statement was issued and, during that time, the Commission's website has been down or otherwise inaccessible to many who are scrambling to comply with the schedule. Add to that the non-hearing hearing format of tonight's event and you have to wonder how much of this mess is due to their cozy relationship with those they are supposed to be regulating and how much of it is just incompetence," said Karen Feridun, Founder of Berks Gas Truth.
"We're here to tell FERC that they can't push through this bogus Draft EIS. The public is here to expose PennEast for what they are and what they really want, which is to destroy our Valley.The DEIS is missing so much information that it has more holes in it than swiss cheese factory. This DEIS is a joke except that the outcomes are so dangerous and serious. PennEast would cut an ugly scar through the Delaware Valley, cutting through 255 waterways and 91 acres wetlands, threatening homes, and destroying thousands of acres of open space. It would put our drinking water and the entire Delaware River at risk. This pipeline is unneeded and unnecessary and this report is so full of hot air it could fill up another pipeline," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "This is a hearing and we're hear to make FERC listen; they're supposed to work for us and not for PennEast. We're tired of FERC being a rubberstamp for the industry they're supposed to regulate. We're here to take the stamp out of their hands and to tell PennEast to get the FERC out of our Valley!"
Allentown, PA 18102