10/29/2019 Update

NJDEP did not issue their decision on the water permit applications on October 25, 2019 as was expected. 

Rather:

  1. Williams/Transco asked for a 30-day extension for a DEP decision on the Flood Hazard Area permit, and
  2. Williams/Transco withdrew their permit applications for Waterfront Development with Section 401 Water Quality Certification & Coastal Zone Management Consistency, and they submitted new applications three days later – October 28, 2019.

      The NJDEP does not have a 90-day decision deadline to adhere to for the Freshwater Wetlands permit application (i.e., There would be no consequences if they rendered a decision on this beyond 90 days after declaring the application to be complete for review.)

      THANK YOU!

      This is to recognize all the recent efforts to ensure that the NJDEP was aware of our concerns, issues with the applications, and recognition that the applications did not meet the stringent standards that the NJDEP was required to adhere to.  Prior to the NJDEP’s anticipated 10/25/19 decision on the June 12, 2019 applications:

      • Franklin Township Council passed a resolution urging the NJDEP to reject the June 2019 permits for the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) Project at their 10/22/19 meeting.
      • Princeton Council passed a resolution urging the NJDEP to reject the June 2019 permits for the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) Project at their 10/14/19 meeting.
      • Letters were sent to the Governor and NJDEP’s Commissioner McCabe from 33 elected officials and 32 organizations or their members urging the DEP to deny the permits for NESE on 10/18/19.
      • Nearly 6,000 people signed letters and/or online petitions/letters from New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, Clean Ocean Action, Central Jersey Environmental Defenders, and the Natural Resources Defense Council stating opposition to NESE and urging the DEP to deny the permits for NESE.  
      • Over 200 people called the Governor’s office to urge the DEP to deny the permits for NESE because they did not meet stringent regulatory standards
      • Many individuals sent individually-prepared comments to the NJDEP.
      • Franklin Twp. Manager sent extensive comments from the Franklin Township Task Force to the NJDEP and other officials in Trenton on 8/20/19 and 10/21/19.
      • Eastern Environmental Law Center and Princeton Hydro sent comments to the NJDEP on 8/2/19, 8/23/19, 10/21/19, and 10/24/19.
      • People rallied in Red Bank on 9/14/19 at an event organized by Clean Ocean Action.
      • And there were more actions …

      Some of the reasons cited for denying the permits were:

      1. Construction of the NESE Project threatens surface water quality, increased stormwater flooding, and threatened & endangered species and their habitats.
        • From construction in Raritan Bay –  
          • Unearthing toxics above levels acceptable in the regulations
          • Generating turbidity (clouding the water) that would interfere with designated use of the waters
        • From construction of the Madison Loop –
          • Digging in acid-producing soils would result in poor re-vegetation on steep slopes and could lead to excess runoff into wetlands (some of which are classified as “exceptional resource”).
        • From the design of the retention basin for Compressor Station 206 – 
          • This will not adequately address stormwater runoff.
          • NOTE:  Williams/Transco made similar errors that NJ DEP failed to detect and correct in the design and construction of a recent compressor station in Chesterfield Township (“Garden State Expansion” project).
      2. Construction of the Raritan Bay Loop, with its newly proposed shorter schedule, threatens the health of marine life, habitats, benthic and shellfish communities, and the economy of the region due to suspension and spreading of toxins from beneath the seafloor, noise from construction, and limited access to construction space in the Bay for commercial and recreational activities.
      3. Williams/Transco did not demonstrate that there are no practicable alternatives to avoid impacting exceptional resource value wetlands and their transition areas at the proposed CS206 site and Madison Loop.
      4. NJDEP explained that Williams/Transco did not demonstrate (1) that the proposed NESE Project serves an essential health or safety need of the municipality in which it is proposed; (2) that the proposed NESE Project serves existing needs of residents of the State; and (3) that there is no other means available to meet the established public need.
        • NESE does not meet the “public interest” criteria because: 
          • There is no “compelling public need” for it – It does not provide a public health or safety benefit, and, additionally, NY does not need this gas.  Rather, NESE:
            • threatens our air and water quality from methane and other toxic releases, 
            • negatively impacts the health of people and marine/wild life from Compressor Station 206 emissions & unearthed toxins from constructing in Raritan Bay,
            • poses safety risks (fires or explosions) from increased velocity of transporting natural gas through pipelines that are 50+ year old which will impact the rate of corrosion, and 
            • increases risks of flooding at the CS206 site from an inadequately designed retention basin.
        • It doesn’t preserve natural resources, and
          • There would be a negative impact on the shore economy by dredging up toxins from the floor of the Bay which would harm the health and safety of marine life and of Bayshore communities.
          • NOTE:  FERC’s 5/3/19 Certificate of Public Convenience & Necessity was not based on criteria NJDEP needs to use to determine public interest / compelling public need.
      5. The NESE Project’s greenhouse gas emissions and methane leaks would undercut the State’s goals to address impacts on Climate Change.  Based on the responses from the public and political leaders, there is growing support for these goals and opposition to NESE.
        • Approximately 6,000 people called the Governor and/or signed online petitions to the NJDEP and/or to Governor Murphy that included reasons for the NJDEP to deny the June 12, 2019 permit applications.  More comments were emailed or submitted in writing to the NJDEP during the comment period for this 3rd set of applications, but we do not know how many.
        • Governor Cuomo & Mayor DeBlasio, along with many other elected officials in NJ & NY, have voiced their opposition to the NESE Project.

      REMEMBER:  The NESE compressor station & pipeline can’t be built without permits from the NJDEP.

      STAY TUNED for plans for future actions.

ACTION ALERT – Princeton Council voices continuing opposition to NESE

On October 14, 2019, the Princeton Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of NJDEP denying permits for two fossil fuel pipeline projects that could impact central Jersey – NESE and PennEast.  It recognizes that neither project can be completed in a manner that meets the stringent environmental standards required by state laws and regulations.

It highlights misleading & false assertions like:

  • Natural gas is a bridge to clean energy.
  • There is a need for more gas by National Grid in New York.

It highlights important concerns & goals of people in New Jersey:

  • Compressor stations are a potent source of ground level ozone, are a safety risk, and negatively affect the quality of the air we breathe.  Plumes of toxic emissions can travel 10 miles away.
  • The safety standards of interstate pipelines are weaker than those for intrastate pipelines.
  • Construction of Compressor Station 206 would adversely impact the state-threatened barred owl and protected vernal pool habitats.
  • Construction of the pipeline in Raritan Bay would dredge up toxins, and it threatens marine life, tourism and the fishing economy.
  • A transition away from fossil fuels is needed to achieve the State’s clean energy mandates.
  • The costs of non-polluting solar and wind energy are decreasing.
  • New York’s energy needs can be met by energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources.

With appreciation for this well-detailed action by the Princeton Council, their resolution is linked to this alert.

READ THE RESOLUTION

REMEMBER:
If Williams/Transco does not get all permits from NJDEP and/or NYSDEC, the compressor station proposed near Trap Rock Quarry and the pipeline proposed in Old Bridge/Sayreville and Raritan Bay cannot be built.

By Friday, October 25, NJDEP needs to make a decision about the Coastal Wetlands and Waterfront Development permit applications.

By Tuesday, October 29, NJDEP needs to make a decision about the Flood Hazard Area permit application.

QUICK ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE NOW

1-Sign the online petition that will be sent to the Governor & NJDEP Commissioner.

2-Call Governor Murphy between 9AM and 5PM, and tell him that you want the NJDEP to deny all permits for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (a.k.a. NESE).  Call 866-586-4069 or 609-292-6000.

OTHER ACTIONS:

Even though the comment period ended, Williams/Transco has submitted more documents to NJDEP since then.  Make your concerns known to the NJDEP Project Managers and others in Trenton who need to be aware of your concerns by sending messages by October 22.

TO:

NJDEP Project Managers:  Joslin.Tamagno@dep.nj.gov
Joslin Tamagno and Steve Olivera Stephen.Olivera@dep.nj.gov 

COPIES TO:

Governor Phil Murphy Constituent.relations@nj.gov
Christopher Jones, Manager – Land Use Christopher.Jones@dep.nj.gov 
Catherine R. McCabe, NJDEP Commissioner Commissioner@dep.nj.gov 
Diane Dow, Director – Land Use Diane.Dow@dep.nj.gov 
Virginia Kopkash, Assistant Commissioner – Land Use Ginger.Kopkash@dep.nj.gov 
Ruth Foster, Director – Permit Coordination & Environmental Review Ruth.Foster@dep.nj.gov 

ACTION ALERT: Call or write to your NJ State Legistlators

There are many reasons why NJDEP should deny permits for the NESE Project, but they need to know that your representatives oppose it.

We know that the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) Project threatens our health, safety and the quality of our waters and air.  Construction of NESE also puts threatened and endangered species in harm’s way.

  • The NYSDEC and NJDEP people reviewing the water permit applications are required to apply state regulations in their decision-making.  
  • Elected officials hear from their constituents, and there are certainly behind-the sense conversations that include lobbyists of Williams/Transco.
  • Though we have sent many comments to the NJDEP and do not know exactly what will make a difference in their decision-making process, it is important that we all let our elected officials know how we feel about the NESE Project.

SOME REASONS WHY THE NJDEP SHOULD DENY THE PERMIT APPLICATIONS

  • The applications do not comply with state regulations for Surface Water Quality, Stormwater Management, and showing a “compelling public need” for moving gas across NJ to NY.
  • This project would not benefit New Jersey in any way since the gas would all go to New York.  Instead, we would be faced with all of the safety and environmental consequences. 
  • NESE would create more air and water pollution for the entire region.
  • The NESE pipeline would cut through waterfront areas into the bay, increasing coastal flooding and dredging up toxins in the Raritan Bay.  When you cut through a bay like the Raritan, it has an impact on the fisheries as well as the ecology of the Bay.  The fish, plants and other living creatures in the Bay would be threatened by this pipeline.
  • This pipeline would cut through the already polluted and sensitive Raritan Bay and the New York Bay.  Construction would disrupt 1 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment such as arsenic, lead and PCBs, putting toxic chemicals into the Raritan Bay.  The release of those toxins will affect aquatic migration, interfere with breeding, contribute to harmful algae blooms, and impact human health.
  • We’ve spent decades cleaning up the waters in Raritan Bay, and the NESE construction also threatens commercial and recreational fishing economies at the Bayshore.
  • The pipeline project’s path would cut across numerous contaminated sites as well as 2 Superfund sites, the Raritan Bay Slag and Higgins Farm sites, as it goes across the state into the Raritan Bay.  
  • This project would cut through wetlands and other sensitive areas, further imperiling the water, soil and wildlife with more toxic runoff during construction.
  • This project would increase polluted stormwater runoff, destroy critical habitat and cause significant degradation to the environment. 
  • The Coastal Wetland permit would allow for the destruction of wetlands critical for protection against flooding and storm surges.  Wetlands also offer vital pollution protection.  They filter chemicals and sediment out of the water before it is discharged into the ocean.  The loss of those important coastal wetlands will create more pollution and flooding in Middlesex and Monmouth counties. 
  • It’s dangerous to remove wetlands because they act as natural storm barriers and water filters for the area.  The risk will be heightened with worsening storm surges and climate effects including sea level rise.
  • Stormwater runoff impacts from the proposed Compressor Station 206 will also have harmful results.  The station will release formaldehyde, chromium, benzene and hydrocarbons into industrial stormwater runoff that will increase pollution and flooding in an area already plagued by flooding.
  • The Freshwater Wetlands and Flood Hazard Area permits would allow for the destruction of exceptional resource value wetlands and transition areas along with forested areas that are critical for protection against flooding and storm surges as well as vital for the threatened Barred Owl.
  • This gas is highly flammable and dangerous.  An accident with this pipeline and compressor station could contaminate our waterways and environment and put people at risk.

Attached is a list of New Jersey Senators and Representatives.  Call and/or write to your representatives ASAP. 

The NJDEP has until September 25, 2019 to issue their decision about the Coastal Wetlands and Waterfront Development permit applications.


PROPOGANDA ACTIONS

We know that Williams/Transco is guaranteed at least a 14% return on its investment via the FERC permitting process, and we know that National Grid (the customer for the NESE gas) is doing everything they can to influence Governor Cuomo and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to issue the permits by not honoring new applications for gas hook-ups until the NESE Project is approved.

Some points about National Grid

In New York, public utilities are natural monopolies because the infrastructure required to produce and deliver a product such as electricity, gas or water is very expensive to build and maintain, and having more than one company building infrastructure would make our streets a mess.  As a result, they are granted special status as monopolies, but are overseen and regulated by a public utilities commission to ensure accountability to the public.  However, utilities can easily take advantage of their power—and that’s what National Grid has done.

In July 2019, National Grid sent out an email blast to their customers taking a play from our activist handbook to “send comments to the DEC” in favor of the Williams Transco pipeline.  In so doing they are abusing their monopoly power to panic customers into lobbying for their private profit.

  • National Grid’s recent moratorium on new gas hookups violates state regulatory procedures meant to protect ratepayers.
  • The utility’s recent emails to those ratepayers about the illegal moratorium, which ask customers to lobby government agencies to support the pipeline, further violate ethical guidelines and are an abuse of its power as a monopoly.   
  • The utility’s recent emails to those ratepayers do not offer any alternatives, like renewable energy, to the customer to alleviate said gas moratorium.
  • The Public Service Commission (PSC) has a robust system of administrative procedures which protect ratepayers and ensure that they can weigh in and have their interests represented when utilities make changes that might affect them.  For example, Public Service Law requires National Grid to consult with the PSC before denying ratepayers gas service.  Only the PSC can decide how to address possible gas shortages.  
  • By unilaterally imposing its gas moratorium, National Grid has circumvented these procedures and prevented the PSC from being able to adequately protect ratepayers and regulate the potentially self-serving actions of a monopoly utility. 
  • National Grid’s emails exacerbate this potential harm to its customers.  Along with being confusing and manipulative, they pressure captive ratepayers—ratepayers who have no other choice of utility—to act politically against their best interests and on a private corporation’s behalf. 
  • National Grid’s emails also create a harmful climate of fear based around a supposed gas shortage.  This is all as the utility continues to ignore expert reports proving that we don’t need this gas and continues to withhold information that we have requested, which they claim substantiates the need for this new pipeline. 
  • The New York DEC has a legal duty to uphold the Clean Water Act and protect our waters and the ecosystem our waters support.

Some media coverage of these manipulative tactics by National Grid is found here:

ACTION ALERT – Request Fact-Finding Meetings/Public Hearings

Since applying for water permits to the NJDEP a third time via letters dated June 10, 2019, the NJDEP has issued two deficiency letters to Williams/Transco – June 25 and July 12. These letters are attached.

  • The applications for Waterfront Development (Upland & In-Water Individual Permits) and Coastal Wetlands (Individual Permit) have been deemed by the NJDEP to be technically complete. Thus, they are “complete for review”, and this mean that the NJDEP has until September 25 to make a decision about granting or denying these particular permits.
  • Permit applications for Freshwater Wetlands and Flood Hazard Area remain technically deficient. The NJDEP has requested revised Stormwater Management calculations to account for soil units that were reported as different in soil survey reports and in geotechnical investigation reports. They also requested that Williams/Transco demonstrate that the road to the Higgins Farm EPA Remediation Building is not a practicable alternative to their proposed access road.

WHAT TO DO?

Use the attached sample letter and let the NJDEP know that you want them to schedule 3 fact-finding meetings (a.k.a. “public hearings”) near the proposed compressor station site in Franklin Twp., neat the pipeline proposed in Old Bridge and Sayreville, and near the Bayshore communities in Monmouth County who will be affected by the proposed in-water pipeline.

NOTE: Requests for new fact-finding meetings (public hearings) need to be received by the NJDEP by Friday, August 2.

Click here to download letter. Copy & paste the into an email, or print, sign and send by mail, adding anything that you think is relevant.

  • Email it to the NJDEP Commissioner and others involved in overseeing the permit reviews. Email addresses = below.
  • In the Subject line of your email, type: NESE June 2019 Permit applications – Requesting Hearings and more time.
  • Copy & paste these email addresses to use in the “Send” area:

Email to:
Commissioner@dep.nj.gov
Ruth.Foster@dep.nj.gov

Email copy to:
Christopher.Jones@dep.nj.gov
Stephen.Olivera@dep.nj.gov
Joslin.Tamagno@dep.nj.gov

You can also print the letter and add your personal information at the bottom to then snail mail it to the Commissioner McCabe.

PEOPLE OVER POLLUTERS – WE WON FOR NOW

PEOPLE OVER POLLUTERS – WE WON FOR NOW

The concerns of the public were heard, and NJDEP did its job by holding Williams/Transco to the standards of New Jersey’s regulations designed to protect our environment, health and safety.

On June 5, the NJDEP denied all applications for water permits for the NESE Project without prejudice to any future re-application by Williams/Transco.  The NJDEP considered the application documents, extensive public comments, and requirements in their regulations to reach this decision.

Following the May 15 denial without prejudice by the NYSDEC for permits, Williams/Transco re-applied two days later.  

Chris Stockton, spokesperson for Williams, issued the following statement on June 6, 2019 at 12:56 pm:  “We are currently assessing the discrete technical issues raised by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection related to our application for water quality certification. We believe that we can be responsive to the issues raised by the agency and intend to resubmit the application to the agency in a timely manner to maintain the customer’s in-service date requirement.”

Those “discrete technical issues” include Williams/Transco’s lack of fully demonstrating: 

  1. a compelling public need for NESE that meets State regulations or, in the alternative, the existence of an extraordinary hardship that warrants granting a permit for the compressor station as detailed in the applications; 
  2. that there is no practicable alternative to the proposed construction of and access to the compressor station that would avoid or minimize impacts to freshwater wetlands and exceptional value resource areas at this site; and 
  3. how construction of the Raritan Bay Loop’s dredging and redistribution of toxic sediment from the floor of the bay would avoid or minimize adverse impacts to surface water quality to ensure compliance with surface water quality standards. 

We’ll wait to see what is in the new application.  

We will continue to act to protect our environment, health, safety and well-being.  Remember what Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful concerned citizens can change the world.  Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

ACTION ALERT: Send Comments to NJDEP by November 20, 2018

DO SOMETHING YOU’LL BE THANKFUL FOR

Speak up for the health, safety & environment of your family, friends and future generations.

Deadline:  Tuesday, November 20, 2018

This is the last date that the NJDEP will consider comments on the Freshwater Wetlands Permit Application of Williams/Transco for the Compressor Station 206 and onland part of the pipeline by Raritan Bay.

REMEMBER:  If all permits are not obtained, the Compressor Station 206 and pipeline near and under the Raritan Bay cannot be built. 

Over 300 concerned residents went to the NJDEP Hearing on November 5, and the 3-minute comments were still being made past 11:00 PM.  That was an amazing showing, but more is needed.

As Abraham Lincoln said in the Lincoln-Douglas debate of 1858,

Public sentiment is everything.
With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.”

This is the time for all to make their concerns known to the NJDEP.  The power of many is needed to stop the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project from creating risks to our health and safety.  Every comment matters!

COMMENT SAMPLES (.docx):

  1. Incomplete Application that is also not compliant with Stormwater Management Rules
  2. Application does not meet “public need” or “public interest” requirements – long & short versions
  3. Application has concerning impacts on wetlands
  4. Application threatens habitats for threatened & endangered species
  5. Health issues related to Freshwater Wetlands Permit Application
  6. Safety issues related to Freshwater Wetlands Permit Application
  7. Summary of Concerns with the Freshwater Wetlands Permit Application

As Margaret Mead said,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful concerned citizens can change the world.
Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”