WHY IS THE NESE PROJECT A BAD IDEA?
We’ll wait to see what is in new applications to NJDEP and NYSDEC, but the issues in these comments will likely remain relevant.
A Climate Disaster
- A major reason to oppose NESE is the impact it will have on accelerating climate change. This billion dollar project will lock the region into decades of continued reliance on fossil fuels. If approved, the project will bring climate altering methane gas to New York City, resulting in the equivalent of over 7 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year!
Incompatible with New Jersey and New York’s Clean Energy Agenda
- To address climate change, both Governor Murphy of New Jersey and Governor Cuomo of New York have unveiled progressive climate plans to significantly reduce emissions and promote a swift transition to renewable energy. NESE creates a legacy incompatible with these goals.
Destruction of Decades of Water Quality Improvement in the Raritan and Lower New York Bays
- The Raritan Bay and Lower New York Bay are the oldest industrial watersheds in the nation. Decades of pollution, dumping, and mismanagement resulted in widespread contamination. However, environmental efforts in the last few years have significantly improved the area. NESE threatens to reverse these improvements. Dredging of a 23.4 mile trench through the heart of these waterways will re-suspend sediment containing harmful toxins such as PCBs, dioxin, lead, mercury and arsenic.
- The company behind the project also plans to discharge over 690,000 gallons of drilling fluids into the water releasing untold chemicals and biocides into the marine environment.
Harm to Marine Life
- The area the proposed pipeline will disrupt is home to a wide variety of marine life. The Raritan and Lower New York Bay is home to over two-hundred species of fish, sixteen species of marine mammals, including the Atlantic Right Whale, and five species of turtles. Several of these species are considered endangered or threatened.
- Construction of the offshore pipeline will result in widespread industrial activity which will harass and harm marine life. The resuspension of the toxic contaminants will destroy important ecosystems such as oyster reefs, clam beds, wetlands and shallow waters. As the toxic sediment resettles, it will also suffocate fish eggs and larva, killing the next generation of marine life.
Ocean Dumping – Contaminating the Atlantic Ocean
- The company plans to not only re-suspend harmful toxic sediment, but has proposed to dump over 735,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment into the ocean. This will expose marine life to toxic pollutants, reintroducing toxins into the environment and allowing it to enter the food chain.
A Threat to Public Health and Safety
- Over the past years, pipelines and pumping stations owned and operated by the company proposing NESE have experienced over ten explosions or fires. In the last five years, the company has continued to receive safety and risk violations from various federal agencies including penalties in New York and New Jersey. The company has also received numerous fines from the EPA for unsafe discharges of pollutants.
- Compressor Station 206 is proposed to be built in a densely populated area, next to an active blasting quarry and a Superfund site.
- Compressor Station 206 will increase the velocity of gas through pipelines that are over 50 years old which will accelerate the rate of corrosion that leads to fires and explosion.
Increased Air/Noise Pollution
- The proposed Compressor Station 206 will result in harmful emissions of toxic air pollutants such as Carbon Monoxide, Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrous Oxides, Particulate Matter 2.5, Volatile Organic Compounds, Formaldehyde, and Benzene, and some of these emissions will increase Ozone, which is unhealthy for children, the elderly, and those with respiratory ailments.
- For the second consecutive year, the American Lung Association gave both Monmouth County and Middlesex County an F in the annual State of the Air report for ozone pollution.
- Low-frequency noise from compressor stations, it has been reported, is harmful to both humans and wildlife.
An Unneeded Cash-Grab
- The billion dollar project will be paid for by ratepayers in New York. If approved, federal regulations will give Williams-Transco a mandatory 14% return on investment for the harmful project. There are better, less harmful alternatives to this massive overbuild of a project based on profit and not need.
- In fact, after New York regulators previously denied the project for the environmental harm it would create, National Grid, the utility contracted to purchase the gas from the project, issued a moratorium on all new connections and urged customers to support the project. New York regulators concluded that there was no proof that the moratorium was needed and fined the company 35 million dollars, and ordered the company to lift the moratorium.
Comment Topics – Elaborated Points are in the attached PDF documents.
COMMENT 1: Construction of the NESE Project threatens water quality, increased stormwater flooding, and threatened & endangered species.
- Construction of a stormwater basin at the proposed Compressor Station 206 site does not include complete plans that account for the specific soil type that exists there.
- Impacts to the habitat for the State threatened barred owl as well as protected vernal pool habitats at the proposed Compressor Station 206 site were not adequately assessed or avoided.
- Construction Schedule of the Raritan Bay Loop was reduced from 12 months to 7 months.
- A shortened timeline increases the intensity of work, so the overall impacts will be magnified.
- Noise Impacts from Pile Drivings – It is not clear if the construction schedule for these activities has changed with the compressed construction schedule for the Raritan Bay Loop, but their requests for harassment permission have increased.
- Dredging up toxics has not been avoided by construction of the Raritan Bay Loop, and this will likely cause long-term harm that was not accounted for in the applications.
- To reach a conclusion that the impacts on water quality would be short-lived, temporary and localized neglects to consider the unusual tidal flows in Raritan Bay, the chain-reactions from destroyed habitat and food sources for marine life, and the contamination of food sources for marine life and people.
- NESE’s Raritan Bay Loop’s Undisputed, Devastating Impact on Shellfish Beds and Benthic Communities
- Williams/Transco has not sufficiently identified permanent, temporary, and secondary/indirect impacts from onland construction, and they have not shown plans to avoid and/or mitigate these impacts.
- Acid Producing Soils
- Construction through or near Superfund Sites & other toxic sites
COMMENT 2: Williams/Transco did not demonstrate a “compelling public need” for the NESE Project that meets requirements of NJ’s Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7A-10.4 or, alternatively, demonstrate an extraordinary hardship from denial of a permit.
The NESE Project does not serve an essential health or safety need of the municipality in which it would be constructed, and its proposed use does not serve existing needs of residents of the State.
- Air Quality & Health Impacts
- Safety Risks – Fires or Explosions
Additionally, the “need” for the NESE Project has been refuted by reports, and the needs of the State that are currently focused on fighting climate change impacts would be harmed by the NESE Project despite claims by Williams/Transco about “benefits” to New Jersey.
COMMENT 3: NESE is not in the Public Interest.
- Need to preserve natural resources
- Relative extent of the public and private need for the regulated activity
- Practicability of using reasonable alternative locations and methods
- Economic value
- Ecological value of the freshwater wetlands and probable impact on public health and fish and wildlife.
COMMENT 4: Contaminants that would be unearthed, suspended and redistributed in the Raritan Bay exceed “acceptable” levels. Exceedances were found by the NYSDEC for heavy metals (copper & mercury) in New York waters, too. Thus, construction of the Raritan Bay Loop of the NESE Project would (a) negatively impact surface water quality, and (b) harm threatened and endangered species and their habitat.
Additionally, the shortening of the in-water construction schedule raises serious concerns about impacts from increased vessel traffic and noise as well as adhering to time-of-year restrictions to protect threatened and endangered species if the schedule needs to be altered due to unforeseen circumstances.
Furthermore, the unique tidal flows in the Raritan Bay do not seem to have been given appropriate consideration.
COMMENT 5: Other Concerns about In-Water Construction
- Time of Year Restrictions
- Thermal Discharges
COMMENT 6: There is a Questionable “Need” for additional natural gas in National Grid’s NY area.
COMMENT 7: There is no real consideration of climate crisis-mitigating renewable alternatives by the Federal or State agencies.
Additionally, the impact of the NESE Project on climate change effects should be considered in light of the threats facing New Jersey as well as the State’s goals to reduce greenhouse gases.