Action Alert: National Grid Comment Suggestions

The Public Service Commission will be accepting public comments on National Grid’s plan until May 1, 2020.

Email comments to the Secretary of the NY State Dept. of Public Service’s Secretary:

Hon. Michelle Phillips:  secretary@dps.ny.gov

National Grid’s webpage has information about submitting comments, too – See:  https://ngridlongtermsolutions.com


From National Grid’s website:  There are multiple ways to voice your opinion

The Company held a series of public meetings in March, to provide the public and our customers with an opportunity to review each of the options, ask questions of subject matter experts, and make public feedback statements. The transcripts for the public meetings are available via links below. The series of public and virtual meetings is now complete. Whether you attended a public meeting or not, there is an equal opportunity to have your voice and opinion heard and reflected prior to any final decisions being made. There is still an opportunity to learn about the long-term gas capacity options and provide feedback up until 5/1/20 in any of the following ways:

  1. Complete the survey on this site
  2. Provide feedback directly to the state of New York via the following link: NYS DPS comment form
  3. Submit comments to the Department by email to the secretary at secretary@dps.ny.gov
  4. Mail your comments to the Hon. Michelle L. Phillips, Secretary to the New York State Public Service Commission, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York, 12223-1350
  5. You can also provide comments over the phone using the Department’s Opinion Line by calling 1-800-335-2120 (see here for more info)

After all the feedback is collected and reviewed, the Company will issue a supplemental report that summarizes and includes public and customer input — all to enable an agreed long-term solution(s) with New York State by June 2020. This timeline will enable the solution(s) to be in place and in operation by the winter of 2021/2022. 

Re:  Case #s 19-02328 and 19-G-0678

Proceeding on Motion of the Commission to Investigate Denials of Service Requests by National Grid USA, The Brooklyn Union Gas Company d/b/a National Grid NY and KeySpan Gas East Corporation d/b/a National Grid

NESE is Not Needed – Reports

Links to reports showing that the claim that National Grid “needs” the gas from NESE is false:

  • Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis (April 2020)

Proposed NESE Gas Pipeline in New York: A Bad Bargain for Ratepayers and Taxpayer- 

Modern Energy Planning Would Be a Better Approach.   Suzanne Mattei, IEEFA Energy Policy Analyst, Tom Sanzillo, IEEFA Director of Finance, & Margaret Stix, President, Lookout Hill Public Policy Associates 

  • Synapse (4-6-20)
https://www.synapse-energy.com/project/assessment-national-grids-long-term-capacity-report

 Assessment of National Grid’s Long-Term Capacity Report – Natural gas capacity needs and alternatives.   Prepared for the Eastern Environmental Law Center by Kenji Takahashi, Asa Hopkins, PhD, John Rosenkranz, David White, PhD, Shelley Kwok, Nate Garner

  • Energy Futures Group (3-9-20)

Critical Elements in Short Supply: Assessing the Shortcomings of National Grid’s Long-Term Capacity Report.   Prepared for: 350.org and 350Brooklyn by David G. Hill, Ph.D., Chelsea Hotaling & Gabrielle Stebbins, of Energy Futures Group 

  • Rocky Mountain Institute (2-28-20)

New York Can Meet Its Energy Needs without a New Pipeline.  By  Mike Henchen & Sherri Billimoria

COMMENT POINTS

from:  STOP THE WILLIAMS PIPELINE NY (NESE PIPELINE) CAMPAIGN ORGANIZED BY 350BK, SURFRIDER NYC CHAPTER, SANE ENERGY PROJECT, FOOD & WATER ACTION, NEW YORK COMMUNITIES FOR CHANGE, 350, AND ROCKAWAY BEACH CIVIC ASSOCIATION.

Background:

National Grid, the corporate utility covering part of NYC and Long Island has put forth a long-term energy plan to end their widely condemned moratorium that includes  1) off-shore liquefied natural gas terminal (LNG)  2) on-shore LNG import ports  3) fracked gas trucks  4) the Williams NESE pipeline.

There’s overwhelming evidence that there’s no need for the gas that would be transported by the Williams NESE Pipeline or any of National Grid’s fracked gas proposals.

Despite a growing number of New Yorkers getting sick, National Grid is going full steam ahead pushing these disastrous fracked gas projects.  Instead of delaying the process so people can give public comment in person, National Grid has moved to undemocratically designed virtual “public meetings” that have allowed for them to skip over questions and comments and that many folks don’t have the technological capabilities to join.

Any proposal that includes fracked gas goes against the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and risks creating stranded assets that ratepayers will be stuck paying for.

All of National Grid’s fracked gas proposals should be turned down. These proposals include

  • Offshore Liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal 
  • Onshore LNG terminal
  • Compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks
  • Offshore LNG floating barges
  • North Brooklyn (Metropolitan Reliability Infrastructure) pipeline 
  • Staten Island pipeline

A disgraced utility like National Grid should not be in charge of New York’s energy future. It cares about profits, not people, and wants more fracked gas infrastructure to perpetuate its outdated business model, not because it needs the gas. 

  • National Grid is a multi-billion-dollar monopoly that makes a guaranteed rate of return from building fossil fuel infrastructure, which ratepayers pay for through higher bills.  WE pay for pipelines so that THEY can profit. 
  • Because National Grid makes its money off of gas infrastructure and gas customers, it has little incentive to do what is best for the climate and New Yorkers and push for renewable solutions.  

National Grid’s new report showing the need for more infrastructure like the Williams NESE pipeline is full of omissions, skewed data, and is essentially propaganda. 

  • The entire 116-page report is based on grossly inflated gas demand projections that do not match up with the figures provided by the Energy Information Administration.
  • National Grid’s demand projections also fail to reflect the utility’s own historical trends, which show gas use to be declining.
  • The report downplays the contributions that renewable heat pumps (which double as air conditioners), demand response technology, efficiency, and other measures could make in reducing demand, while failing to mention whether it could offset pipeline demand through innovations in the power sector, which accounts for 42% of NG gas sales on Long Island and 20% in NYC. 
  • The report doesn’t mention that ratepayers would bear the costs of these projects. 
  • NG’s report includes pipeline alternatives such as offshore LNG merely to make the pipeline option look better. Activists successfully defeated the Port Ambrose offshore LNG terminal in 2015, and the oil and gas would be foolish to attempt this again.  

National Grid’s report grossly understates the NESE pipeline’s climate impacts. 

  • National Grid claims that the NESE pipeline could achieve significant greenhouse gas savings by preventing customers from using dirtier fuels. Yet many of these assumptions have already been disproven, and NG’s economic and customer growth projections are highly suspect and lack citations that would allow further scrutiny.  
  • National Grid bases its greenhouse assessment of NESE on a study by MJ Bradley that uses discredited data on methane leakage and the wrong timespan for considering its warming potential (100 years as opposed to 20) while burying the correct information in an appendix.  
  • A new report from Energy Futures Group shows that, to adhere to state climate law, 85% of the NESE pipeline gas would need to be avoided. Fracked gas is, after all, the main driver of carbon emissions and the reason state and local emissions goals are not being met. (Source). 

National Grid’s report also says nothing about the financial risks of the pipeline to ratepayers.   

  • NG doesn’t mention the chances of the NESE pipeline becoming a stranded asset. NESE would be expected to last until around 2070. Yet state climate law mandates net zero emissions by 2050, and Local Law 97 will reduce big building emissions 40% by 2030. Gas use will plummet during that time, making the pipeline obsolete well before its intended retirement date.
  • The Williams NESE pipeline would cost ratepayers roughly $1.4 billion dollars, and all for a project that would likely only be in service for a decade at most. 
  • National Grid fails to include externalized costs in its assessments. The social costs of contributing to the climate crisis and the environmental costs of building a 23-mile pipeline through New York Harbor would be significant and yet are entirely left out.  

Non-pipeline renewable solutions can—and must—handle the job!  

  • A new report from Energy Futures Group shows that when National Grid’s demand projections are adjusted to the more reasonable EIA figures, 85% of the gas in the Williams NESE pipeline would be unneeded, leaving a mere 15% to be met by renewable solutions.  
  • The paper also shows that when aggressively implemented, renewable non-pipeline solutions alone could offset 88% of the capacity of the NESE pipeline. 
  • The renewable future is here. Regulators and politicians will either be leaders and usher it in or cave to corporate interests and keep us chained to the energy of the past. The choice is theirs.

Now is the time for the PSC to take a firm stance and work toward the required clean, renewable energy future for us rather than support and/or turn a blind eye to misleading (at best) information provided by National Grid & those they hired to promote their interests.  We know the truth of climate change impacts & should not need to make choices that will further harm our health, safety & environment when there are less expensive & cleaner options than the NESE Project for our future energy needs.

Comment 1:  National Grid’s Exploitation of COVID-19

By continuing to hold virtual “public meetings” during the COVID-19 outbreak, National Grid is taking advantage of a crisis to push through wildly unpopular projects.

  • New Yorkers are struggling to stay healthy, care for kids and sick relatives, process news, and stay sane during the worst public health crisis in a century. This is hardly the time for meetings pitching fracked gas infrastructure that New York doesn’t need and that New Yorkers don’t want.  
  • This is disaster capitalism—exploiting a crisis in order to push through lucrative projects with as little friction as possible. National Grid would profit off the infrastructure it is pitching.
  • National Grid is also exploiting this crisis by continuing to work on the widely opposed MRI Pipeline in North Brooklyn, rushing through construction at a time when community members—who, before social distancing, had been rallying against the project every weekend—cannot show up to shut it down.

The switch from public meetings to virtual meetings is having a silencing effect on the community.  

  • By moving to virtual meetings, National Grid is robbing the public of the chance to show its true power as a collective, which National Grid is clearly scared of.
  • At the first virtual meeting, several participants were unable to ask questions and comment, despite trying multiple times, yet this wasn’t apparent in the virtual setting. Had the meetings been in person, this would have been clear to the public.  
  • National Grid also concealed the names and numbers of attendees once the number reached 160, preventing attendees and the press from knowing the extent of the turnout.  

National Grid’s virtual interface is laughably clunky and provides an undemocratic way to access the meetings.  

  • Users are required to download a browser extension just to join the meeting and see the videos and presentation, then dial in on their phones to hear the meeting audio.
  • This discriminates against New Yorkers who might not be able to figure out the technology or who have no access or means to acquire multiple devices.
  • National Grid didn’t provide links to meeting access early enough before the first two events, which goes against best practices and prevents people from circulating information about the meetings beforehand.
  • There is also no video option allowing to see the public, which is cowardly on the part of National Grid and robs the public of an important mode of expression.

National Grid has proven to be the real public health menace, exploiting one public health crisis for projects that would only contribute to another.

  • National Grid is taking advantage of COVID-19 to push fracked gas, which is exacerbating the climate crisis—a public health crisis orders of magnitude greater than COVID-19 will ever be.
  • By continuing to work on the MRI Pipeline, National Grid is subjecting its own workers and the surrounding community to the virus, once again putting profits over people.

As a regulator tasked with protecting New Yorkers, the PSC must stop enabling National Grid to exploit this crisis. You must shut these meetings down, and stop giving a platform to a monopoly utility that so clearly puts profits over people!

Comment 2:  Tell the PSC: National Grid’s fracked gas proposals fail the climate test

National Grid’s business model is dependent on fracked gas expansion and their long-term energy proposals show they are willing to sacrifice a livable planet to keep that business model alive.

Last year both New York City and State passed groundbreaking climate legislation requiring a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. National Grid completely ignored those laws by proposing fracked gas projects like the Williams NESE pipeline and large and small scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) in their long-term energy plan.

A new white paper from Energy Futures Group found that in order for the Williams  pipeline to adhere to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, 95% of its gas would have to remain unburned.

Yet for the past three nights, during a public health crisis, National Grid has had the audacity to present the Williams Pipeline as “neutral” for the environment during their virtual “public meetings”.

They also presented options for LNG barges, which New Yorkers overwhelmingly campaigned against and defeated in 2015.  LNG is even worse for the climate because liquefying gas through super cooling is a very energy intensive process on top of the damage gas extraction and piping already creates.

The truth is there is no safe way to transport or burn fracked gas when it comes to our climate and it’s an insult to every New Yorker who fought for the CLCPA and Local Law 97 in NYC for National Grid to be proposing fracked gas infrastructure expansion in 2020.

National Grid’s fracked gas proposals completely defy state climate law

  • Last Spring, New York State passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which mandates that the state emit no more than 35 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalents by 2050 (15% of what it emitted in 1990).  
  • Yet the gas National Grid supplied to its customers in 2015 yielded 70 million metric tonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalents when burned—twice the amount required by the CLCPA.
  • The Williams NESE pipeline would increase the gas supply in New York by 14%. Even when combined with renewable solutions, there is clearly no room for more fracked gas in the CLCPA.
  • A new white paper from Energy Futures Group affirms this, showing that, in order for the Williams NESE pipeline to adhere to the CLCPA, 95% of its gas would have to remain unburned.

Much of the data that National Grid uses in its report is either discredited or used in misleading ways

  • National Grid claims that more fracked gas infrastructure will help reduce emissions by preventing customers from using dirtier fuels. Yet all of the conversions from the really dirty #6 oil in New York City were completed by the end of 2015.
  • National Grid’s report also cites a paper by MJ Bradley that uses the wrong data on methane. Its calculations relied on methane’s 100-year warming potential rather than its far more potent (and relevant) 20-year potential, which is 86 times that of C02.
  • The EJ Bradley paper also uses the Department of Energy’s outdated data on methane leakage rather than the EDF figures, which show that methane’s upstream contributions to global heating are 24% higher than previously thought. Moreover, Robert Howarth of Cornell has recently published evidence that the upstream leakage of fracked gas is on the order of 12%, not the 3% figure used by the EPA.

The report also foregrounds implausible solutions like hydrogen and “renewable gas”

  • National Grid is pitching both of these solutions only because they could be used with its existing and proposed infrastructure, allowing it to evade arguments that its pipelines could become stranded assets.
  • In reality, neither are plausible near-term solutions, both because of cost and limited impact.

The entire premise of National Grid’s report and public meetings—that an investor-owned gas company’s energy proposals should be taken seriously during a climate crisis—is absurd.

  • National Grid’s business model is based entirely around fracked gas. They have zero incentive to truly explore renewable energy.
  • In the service area under consideration, National Grid loses market share when its customers shift from gas to more efficient electric heating. National Grid therefore has a financial incentive to discourage people from moving off of gas.
  • A new report, issued by an independent monitor overseeing National Grid’s post-moratorium activities, quotes senior National Grid executives saying that the utility historically has not “actively try[ied] to get people to electrify” in the Service Territory because it is not “our business.” (Source, pg.11)

Comment 3:  No Need for the Gas from the Proposed NESE Project

When the Williams NESE Pipeline was temporarily denied last year, National Grid claimed there would be a gas shortage and began taking customers hostage with a widely condemned moratorium. Now they’ve included this claim in their long-term capacity report.

We don’t buy it and never have.

There’s overwhelming evidence that there’s no need for the gas that would be transported by the Williams Pipeline. A newly released report shows that National Grid’s gas growth projections don’t match those from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and are highly inflated.

This means there’s no need for the Williams Pipeline or any of National Grid’s fracked gas proposals in their long-term energy plan.

And the good news is we know renewable solutions can do the job National Grid is claiming we need fracked gas for.

When aggressively deployed, renewable, non-pipeline solutions such as energy efficiency measures, demand response, electric heat pumps (which double as air conditioners) could offset as much as 88% of the capacity of the NESE pipeline.

The Lack of Need for the Williams NESE Pipeline

new whitepaper by Energy Futures Group refutes the findings of National Grid’s recently released report on long-term gas capacity, which continues the disgraced utility’s efforts to push for the Williams NESE pipeline in New York Harbor.

There is overwhelming evidence that the gas that the Williams NESE pipeline would bring isn’t needed.  

  • Suzanne Mattei, a former regional director with the DEC, has disproven National Grid’s initial justification for the pipeline: that more gas is needed to allow customers to convert their boilers from oil to gas. In fact, the majority of relevant boiler conversions happened years ago. (Source)
  • The report also emphasized that gas demand in our region is flat or negative. At least four separate agencies and studies have demonstrated this, citing increases in energy efficiency and the use of renewables as reasons. (Source, pg.20).

A new whitepaper from Energy Futures Group (EFG) reaffirms these claims, showing that National Grid’s demand projections are grossly inflated.  

  • In its new report on long-term capacity, National Grid claims that peak demand is expected to increase by 0.8–1.1% per year at the bare minimum, which equals 8–11% growth in 10 years (Source, pg.7). Yet the U.S. Energy Information Admin. predicts an increase of only 1.6% over the entire next decade. (Source).
  • National Grid’s demand projections are also inconsistent with its own historical data, which show that demand has slowed significantly in the last six years. (Source, pg.4)
  • National Grid’s filings with the New York PSC bear this out, showing that, in 2017, National Grid used 35% less gas than anticipated even as it added 12,000 more customers than it had predicted adding.
  • There are also mistakes in the report. On pg.2 of the report’s technical appendix, National Grid’s calculations of gas demand per customer are off by an entire decimal point, significantly inflating demand.

Crucially, the EFG paper finds that renewable, non-pipeline solutions could offset the need for 88% of the NESE pipeline capacity, and that adjusted demand figures alone could offset 85% of the gas.  

  • When demand projections are adjusted to the more reasonable ones from the EIA, 85% of the NESE pipeline gas would be offset, leaving a mere 15% to be met by renewable solutions. (Source, pg.4)
  • When aggressively deployed, renewable, non-pipeline solutions such as energy efficiency measures, demand response, electric heat pumps (which double as air conditioners) could offset as much as 88% of the capacity of the NESE pipeline. (Source, pg.4)
  • The Rocky Mountain Institute has also scrutinized National Grid’s report and found that the pipeline is not needed.

By claiming it needs more gas, National Grid is exploiting the fact that no federal or state regulator has assessed the real need for this project, nor possible alternatives to it. The real reason it wants the pipeline is to secure its business model.

  • No federal or state regulator has fulfilled the mandate to explore practicable alternatives to the pipeline. (Source). FERC in particular, in its environmental impact statement, ignored the NEPA requirement that it explore these alternatives, using an overly restrictive definition of the project to claim that renewable solutions couldn’t achieve the same ends as gas (Source, p.3-1)
  • Both National Grid and Williams are taking advantage of this to secure the pipeline as a revenue stream. Williams will make a guaranteed rate of return (14%) on this project, regardless of whether or not it is needed.
  • Because National Grid mostly supplies gas and not electricity in the relevant service area, it loses market share when its customers shift from gas to electric heating. National Grid therefore has a financial incentive to discourage people from moving off of gas.
  • Another new report, issued by an independent monitor overseeing National Grid’s post-moratorium activities, quotes senior National Grid executives saying that the utility historically has not “actively tr[ied] to get people to electrify” in the Service Territory because it is not “our business.” (Source, pg.11)

State and local climate legislation will drastically curtail gas use in the next decade, further reducing need while creating the risk of stranded assets.

  • The energy efficiency and widespread electrification required by New York City’s Local Law 97, which mandates that big buildings reduce emissions by 40% by 2030, and the state’s CLCPA, which mandates net zero emissions by 2050, will drastically reduce gas use over the next decade, making the pipeline obsolete well before its intended date of retirement.
  • Lower-income ratepayers, who have less ability to shift to electric heating/hot water, will be left paying for these assets, which is expected to cost $1.4 billion.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio just issued an executive order that will eventually stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure. This will further restrict what can be done with the pipeline’s gas, and will only make the environment for this pipeline more hostile.

Comment 4: Tell the PSC that NESE Is Not a Viable Option

National Grid’s report on their long-term energy plan states that “community impacts” of NESE “would be minimal with the majority of construction happening offshore.” We know that is not true particularly for coastal communities, including Staten Island, Coney Island, and the Rockaways.

National Grid’s report also tried to downplay the climate impacts of the Williams Pipeline and the threat to the health and safety of the harbor. 

Background:

One of the options contained in National Grid’s Long-Term Capacity Report is Williams’ proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement project (NESE).  National Grid has contracted with Williams for this over one billion dollar project.  NESE – which has already been denied by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation twice, most recently in May 2019 – should not be an option for downstate New York’s energy needs for many reasons, including:

The Cost of NESE Will Be Passed to National Grid Customers

  • The burden of paying for this over one billion dollar project would be borne by National Grid’s customers.  
  • The Report fails to mention the likelihood of NESE becoming a stranded asset. National Grid, which would pay for the pipeline over 15 years, wouldn’t make its last payment until around 2037 at the earliest. Ratepayers might well be absorbing those costs for years after that. Yet Local Law 97 will reduce big-building emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2040, drastically cutting gas use. The pipeline would hardly be needed by then.
  • NESE will cost ratepayers roughly $1.4 billion dollars and for a project that will likely only be in service for a decade at most.

NESE Threatens the Health of NY Harbor and Its Inhabitants

  • This pipeline project threatens the health of NY Harbor – which is the healthiest that it has been in decades due to stricter environmental laws – and the animals that inhabit it.  
  • As concluded by the DEC in its denial, the installation of this pipeline would result in the release of dangerous toxins, including mercury and copper, into NY Harbor.
  • The DEC also found that pipeline construction would destroy any benthic community, such as clams and oysters, in its path.
  • The pipeline construction – which would cause release of toxins, increased turbidity, vibrations from pile driving, and increased amount of large vessels in the Harbor – threatens countless other marine species, including the endangered Atlantic sturgeon, winter flounder, sea turtles, and humpback whales, which have made a return to the the Harbor in the last several years.

National Grid’s Claim that Community Impacts of NESE Will Be Minimal Is False and Misleading

  • The Report states that “community impacts” of NESE “would be minimal with the majority of construction happening offshore.” This is a completely false and misleading statement. NESE will, in fact, have serious impacts on New York City communities, particularly the coastal communities, including Staten Island, Coney Island, and the Rockaways.
  • Super Storms like Sandy – which destroyed NYC’s coastal communities in 2012 – are a result of climate change. As the DEC concluded, this pipeline will contribute towards climate change.
  • The benthic communities are natural water filterers and storm barriers, which help protect the coast from storm surge. As the DEC concluded, this pipeline would destroy the benthic communities in its path.
  • The ocean is the backyard to coastal communities of New York City and is enjoyed by many more New Yorkers. As the DEC concluded, the pipeline will release toxins, such as mercury and copper, into the ocean where we swim, surf, and fish, thereby threatening human health.

NESE Is Not Needed

  • National Grid has claimed all along that NESE is needed because New Yorkers were switching from oil to gas and more would be doing so in the future. This claim was based, in large part, on the fact that New York City regulations mandated the phase-out of No. 6 fuel oil, which would lead to an increase in conversions. However, in actuality, these mandated conversions already occurred by the end of 2015.  
  • The data set forth in the Report is based on unsubstantiated assertions or unwarranted assumptions, as is pointed out by a recent paper by Energy Futures Group entitled “A Framework for Critical Analysis of National Grid’s Long-Term Natural Gas Needs Assessment.” For example, National Grid claims that peak demand is expected to increase by 0.8–1.1% per year at the bare minimum, which equals 8–11% growth in 10 years. Yet the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts an increase of only 1.6% over the entire next decade.
  • There are also mistakes in the Report. For example, on page 2 of the Report’s technical appendix, National Grid’s calculations of gas demand per customer are off by an entire decimal point, significantly inflating demand. National Grid has since corrected this error, but only after being called out about it at one of their public meetings.
  • National Grid’s demand projections also fail to reflect the utility’s own historical trends, which shows gas use to be declining.  
  • The EFG report shows that when National Grid’s demand projections are adjusted to the more reasonable EIA figures, 85% of the gas in NESE would be unneeded, leaving a mere 15% to be met by renewable or energy efficiency solutions.
  • Another recent report, from Synapse Energy Economics, shows that National Grid is likely to have a surplus, not a deficit, of gas by 2035. The report reaches this conclusion by showing how National Grid overestimated the future rate of oil to gas conversions, failed to account for energy efficiency savings required by NYSERDA, and did not properly account for impacts on demand by Local Law 97, among other things.

NESE Will Contribute Towards Climate Change and Runs Contrary to the CLCPA

  • NESE would carry as much as 400,000 dekatherms of fracked gas into the region each day. Fracked gas is largely methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful in the short term than carbon dioxide. When just 3.2% of methane leaks – and gas infrastructure is known to leak as much as 11% – methane is as bad for the climate as burning coal.
  • The DEC also noted that 99,781 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions (the equivalent of burning 50,000 tons of coal) would be released from the construction of the project alone.
  • The EFG report shows that, to adhere to the recently passed Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, 95% of the NESE pipeline gas would need to be avoided.
  • In its Report, National Grid bases its greenhouse assessment of NESE on a study by MJ Bradley that uses discredited data on methane leakage and the wrong time span for considering its warming potential (100 years instead of 20 years) while burying the correct information in an appendix.

Comment 5:  Untrustworthiness and Irresponsibility of National Grid

Last year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) listened to science and the people of New York and temporarily rejected the Williams fracked gas pipeline.

But instead of taking the pipeline denial as an opportunity to build the renewable energy future we need, National Grid began taking ratepayers hostage with a widely condemned moratorium.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) ordered National Grid to end their moratorium and pay a $36 million penalty for “its abuse of its customers and the adverse economic impact they have caused.”  

National Grid’s irresponsible actions during the moratorium aren’t an isolated incident. Before the moratorium a PSC investigation found 1,500 violations of gas safety regulations relating to gas infrastructure work in their service territories of Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island.

National Grid also failed to halt construction of their controversial North Brooklyn Pipeline until March 26, 2020, well after the COVID-19 crisis had fully hit NYC.

It took the local community and ratepayers organizing and expressing their serious concerns, including many verbal comments at the National Grid virtual public meetings in March, to get the company to suspend construction.

We need a utility that will act in the public interest, not a company who continues to push for rate hikes to fund fracked gas infrastructure by any means necessary.  

Background:

One of the options contained in National Grid’s Long-Term Capacity Report is Williams’ proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement project (NESE). National Grid has contracted with Williams for this over one billion dollar project. NESE – which has already been denied by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation twice, most recently in May 2019.

Instead of taking the pipeline denial as an opportunity to build the renewable energy future we need, National Grid began taking ratepayers hostage with a widely condemned moratorium. The Public Service Commission (PSC) ordered National Grid to end their moratorium and pay a $36 million penalty for “its abuse of its customers and the adverse economic impact they have caused.”  

National Grid’s Abuse of Ratepayers through Self-Imposed Moratorium  

  • National Grid is required to release this Long-Term Capacity Report and hold this public participation process because it abused ratepayers last year. It is not doing any of this for public good or because it actually values public feedback.
  • Last year, National Grid held its own customers hostage over the Williams pipeline. In the wake of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s denial of the pipeline in May 2019, National Grid issued a self-imposed moratorium on all new gas connections until the pipeline was approved. This severely hurt small businesses, new home owners, and other ratepayers.
  • National Grid also directly asked its ratepayers to support the pipeline, without involving the Public Service Commission. In a misleading email sent on July 8, 2019 entitled “Natural gas supplies are at risk in downstate New York,” the company directed people to an online petition to Governor Cuomo and the DEC in support of the Williams pipeline. This was an outrageous and inappropriate request given that this pipeline would generate huge profits for National Grid while raising customer rates and contributing to the climate crisis.
  • When it became apparent that the moratorium was bogus, Governor Cuomo accused National Grid of extortion and threatened to revoke its license to operate in NY State after which National Grid and Governor Cuomo/the PSC reached a settlement in November 2019. As part of that settlement, the company is required to pay a $36million penalty. Governor Cuomo stated “National Grid will pay a significant penalty for its failure to address the supply issue, its abuse of its customers, and the adverse economic impact they have caused.”

National Grid’s Poor Safety Record

  • Public Service Commission proceeding, Case No. 17-G-0317
    • In July 2019, the PSC, after a lengthy and detailed investigation, commenced a penalty action against National Grid concerning 1,500 violations of gas safety regulations relating to gas infrastructure work in their service territories of Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island.
    • In addition, the investigation found that National Grid failed to inspect work completed by its contractors during construction at sufficient intervals to ensure compliance and that it allowed the work to be completed by inspectors who were not properly qualified to do the work.
    • National Grid is also accused of failing to adequately train its pipeline installers, as required by state safety regulations. The PSC found that workers employed by National Grid’s contractor, which acted as National Grid’s agent with respect to the construction, were given the answers to the operator qualification exams.  
    • This proceeding is still pending.
  • In January 2020, two utility workers were severely burned when a leaky gas pipeline operated by National Grid exploded into flames in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

National Grid Continued Construction of the North Brooklyn Pipeline during the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis

  • In the midst of the COVID-19 public health crisis, National Grid continued construction of its Metropolitan Reliability Infrastructure (MRI) fracked gas pipeline, which is non-essential infrastructure, putting the health and safety of both the workers and the North Brooklyn community at severe risk.
  • As of March 26, 2020, workers were seen on the construction site in close proximity to one another, putting themselves and local residents in danger by being in clear violation of suggested CDC social distancing practices.
  • In light of ABC-7 reporting that a Consolidated Edison construction worker had tested positive for COVID-19, it is only appropriate for all New York utility companies to take the necessary precautions to protect their workers and the communities in which they work and stop all non-essential construction.
  • National Grid finally halted construction of the MRI on March 26, 2020, well after the COVID-19 crisis had fully hit NYC. It took the local community and ratepayers organizing and expressing their serious concerns, including many verbal comments at the National Grid virtual public meetings in March, to get the company to suspend construction.

Comment 6:  Protect us from fracked gas Radioactivity

In January, Rolling Stone published a terrifying 20-month investigation on radioactivity in oil and gas.  Reporter Justin Nobel found that the fossil fuel industry has known for decades that radioactivity builds ups in their pipelines and infrastructure.

During recent virtual “public meetings” New Yorkers asked National Grid President John Bruckner if the company is testing for radon and what they were doing to ensure radioactive material isn’t building up in the infrastructure they use to deliver and store fracked gas.

Instead of answering the question Mr. Bruckner said he would not ‘debate the merit of radon’.  

Comments on National Grid’s long-term energy plan are due April 17. National Grid has proposed multiple false “solutions” including the Williams Pipeline that would transport and store more fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale, the most radioactive shale play in the country, in our communities.

Across the city people’s respiratory systems are being ravaged by the coronavirus.  We need to be making plans to retire dirty fossil fuel infrastructure, including fracked gas, to limit air pollution for survivors.

We know black, brown and indigenous communities are seeing more deaths right now because they have been bearing the brunt of fossil fuel air pollution for decades.  There’s no such thing as “clean” natural gas and we refuse to let National Grid use our money to bring more polluting fracked gas into our communities during this health crisis.

Background:

A 20 month-long investigation published in Rolling Stone found that the fossil fuel industry has known for decades that radioactive material is building up within their infrastructure as ‘scale’.

Despite delivering more gas from the highly radioactive Marcellus Shale, National Grid has no plans to test for radioactivity and refuses to answer ratepayer questions about the issue.

Things you might discuss in your comments:

A growing amount of National Grid’s gas is fracked from the Marcellus Shale, the most radioactive shale play in the country

  • By 2016, 69% of all wells drilled in this country were fracking wells and that number has continued to rise.
  • During its current rate case, National Grid testified that a growing percentage of the gas it delivers was produced through fracking in the Marcellus Shale.
  • The proposed Williams NESE Pipeline for which National Grid is the sole purchaser of gas from would be transporting fracked gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale into NYC.
  • The Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania has higher than average levels of uranium and thorium. These elements break down to form radium-226. Radium-226 breaks down into radon.
  • Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in the United States .

The fossil fuel industry has known for decades that radioactivity in gas is a problem yet National Grid has no plans to test for radioactivity

  • A 20-month long investigation by Justin Nobel published in Rolling Stone in January 2019 found that the fossil fuel industry has known for decades that radioactivity is building up within their infrastructure as ‘scale’.
  • Radon breaks down into lead-210 and polonium-210, which end up accumulating on pumps and filters in gas pipeline systems
  • Because of the expansion of fracking production in the Marcellus Shale, gas in NYC is being transported an even shorter distance from a more radioactive shale play.
  • During their current rate case (19-G-0309/0310) National Grid testified they are not testing for radon in the gas they deliver or for radioactive scale building up in their infrastructure.
  • During virtual public meetings on the company’s long-term capacity plan (Case 19-G-0678)National Grid President John Bruckner failed to address the public’s questions about radioactivity and said he would ‘not debate the merit of radon’
  • To ensure public safety, the PSC should require National Grid to do radon testing in accordance with New York State Assembly bill A102029.

Air pollution has been linked to higher coronavirus death rates, especially in black, brown and indigenous communities. We need to reduce air pollution by retiring dirty fossil fuel infrastructure, including fracked gas.

  • A new study has found ‘Coronavirus patients in areas that had high levels of air pollution before the pandemic are more likely to die from the infection than patients in cleaner parts of the country’.
  • Faux environmental justice groups have been trying to push for the Williams NESE Pipeline by presenting a false choice between oil and gas, claiming gas has less air pollution. But there’s no such thing as ‘clean’ fracked gas.
  • To reduce air pollution we need to be retiring fossil fuel infrastructure, including fracked gas infrastructure, which is often located in low-income communities of color.
  • The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act protects environmental justice communities that have been disproportionately impacted from pollution and climate change from new fossil fuel infrastructure.
  • In their report National Grid says they have not looked at the requirements of the CLCPA when determining the environmental impacts of their proposals.

Comment 7:  Renewables are cheaper and cleaner according to National Grid’s own report

The company’s “no infrastructure” option would combine energy efficiency, heat pumps, and demand response to meet new heating demand and avoid building the Williams NESE Pipeline or other gas infrastructure. As long as National Grid meets its other legally mandated energy efficiency targets to reduce demand for gas, the no infrastructure option would be less expensive than building the NESE pipeline.

Together, we have filed over 5,000 comments to oppose National Grid’s plan that pushes an overwhelming amount of fracked gas infrastructure projects that are nothing but a climate disaster.

But National Grid’s own report shows that we can meet the need for heat in downstate New York and avoid any new gas infrastructure!

The company’s “no infrastructure” option would combine energy efficiency, heat pumps, and demand response to meet new heating demand and avoid building the Williams NESE Pipeline or other gas infrastructure. As long as National Grid meets its other legally mandated energy efficiency targets to reduce demand for gas, the no infrastructure option would be less expensive than building the NESE pipeline.

Our allies at Renewable Heat Now! Drafted talking points on the National Grid options for refuting the need for a gas future in New York City and Long Island:

  • Of the eight options considered by National Grid, seven are fossil fuel projects that would be built with gas utility customer money. How dare they! New York climate law requires a 40% reduction of greenhouse gasses by 2030 and the elimination of greenhouse gasses by 2050. How could National Grid propose to bring more methane gas into New York?
  • The report shows that non-fossil-fuel options can meet the growing demand for thermal energy and contribute to the phase out of fuel oil within National Grid’s service area. It’s possible and it must be done!
  • The “no infrastructure” option — which includes energy efficiency, demand response, and electrification through heat pumps — is the only legally viable option as well as one of the cheaper options discussed in the report. The “no infrastructure option” is $300 million cheaper than the NESE pipeline as long as National Grid meets its currently mandated energy efficiency targets. If National Grid misses those targets, then the company will need more expensive solutions to avoid fossil fuels. National Grid should not be allowed to miss those targets.
  • National Grid stacked its analysis to favor gas infrastructure. The company failed to take into account the impacts of methane on the 20 year timescale now required by state law. It failed to quantify the other benefits that energy efficiency and heat pumps bring to households and communities. Weatherization and energy efficiency improve health, comfort, and affordability. Removing fossil fuel appliances makes homes safer and healthier by eliminating gas leaks, carbon monoxide exposure, and explosions.
  • The people of New York have spoken. The NESE Pipeline has already been roundly rejected in response to tens of thousands of public comments. Simultaneously, a huge social movement won the passage of legally binding climate goals in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. National Grid needs to get the message. It’s time to stop funding methane gas. It’s time to fund the solutions.  

12/9/19 Update

Williams/Transco withdrew all permit applications to NJDEP for the NESE Project on November 26, 2019, the day after National Grid & New York reached an agreement following National Grid’s moratorium on gas service.  

Williams/Transco will submit new applications “at a later date.”

Once again, NJDEP did not have/take the opportunity to deny permit applications for the NESE Project before all permit applications were withdrawn by Williams/Transco on 11/26/19.

  • For the Flood Hazard Area permit application which was “complete for review”, the DEP’s decision date deadline was 11/28/19.  
  • For the Coastal Wetlands & Waterfront Development applications along with a request for a Section 401 Water Quality Certification and Coastal Zone Consistency Determination, the decision date was 6/12/20 before Williams/Transco withdrew these applications on 10/25/19 and then reapplied – without anything new in the applications – on 10/28/19.  Those 10/28/19 applications were administratively complete but had not yet been declared technically complete (which is needed to be considered “complete for review”) before Williams/Transco withdrew them.

On 11/26/19, Williams/Transco wrote that they withdrew all applications for permits to afford the NJDEP additional time to review the application material and comply with the DEP’s timelines under NJ regulations.  The DEP has 90 calendar days (which can be extended by exactly 30 calendar days) to render a decision after an application is declared to be “complete for review”.

  • Publically available documents do not reveal that the DEP indicated in any way that they needed extra time for their review or that the DEP asked Williams/Transco to withdraw and resubmit permit applications so that they would have additional review time.
  • Given the response letter from the DEP’s Christopher Jones (11/27/19) following the withdrawal of applications, it appears that the permit applications still failed to meet the standards for approval.  He wrote that any subsequent new applications would need to address persistent deficiencies in the applications that pertain to (1) confirming that there is a compelling public need for the proposed additional natural gas capacity; (2) steps to show that the alternate access road to the proposed compressor station – that would avoid or minimize environmental impacts – is truly not a practicable alternative; and (3) providing information about monitoring the proposed in-water dredging operations to ensure that all best practices and operational procedures would be implemented and that there are adaptive management procedures that could be implemented in case dredging resulted in exceedance of surface water quality standards.
  • Williams/Transco has not indicated what they will do next other than writing that they will submit applications for the permits at a later date.  Note:  Prior letters withdrawing applications (6-14-18 & 10-25-19) noted that they would submit new applications in the coming days.
  • At this time, we do not know the plans of Williams/Transco to obtain permits needed for NESE.   Are they waiting to see National Grid’s plan for a long-term solution to meeting demand for gas that is due within 3 months?

RELATED ISSUE:

National Grid, the planned recipient of the additional natural gas for New York from the NESE Project, has recently entered an agreement with NY that is outlined below.  This was in response to investigative actions following National Grid’s moratorium on new or reengaged gas service that was heightened after NYSDEC denied permits for the NESE Project in May 2019.  

The real need for more gas in this service area has been in question for a while.

National Grid’s 11-25-19 Agreement with NY

  1. National Grid promised that it will meet demand for the next 2 years.
  2. Within 3 months, National Grid will propose long-term solutions to gas supply issues in the region:
    • Reduce demand through energy efficiency & demand response programs (ask & expect more customers to shift to “non-firm” service – oil or other alternate fuel – and charge these customers differently , being able to penalize them if they do not switch)
    • Truck-in compressed natural gas
    • Long-term possibilities to be considered include renewable energy sources, conservation strategies, liquefied & compressed natural gas facilities, new natural gas pipeline, and/or NESE if it is the most viable & sustainable solution. 
    • Long-term plan needs to be approved by NY State by June 2020 to go into operation by the fall of 2021.
  3. $36 million penalty will be paid by National Grid to New York.
    • $7 million to compensate customers harmed by the moratorium
    • $8 million for new gas efficiency measures
    • $20 million as investment in clean energy businesses across NY State
  4. NY’s Public Service Commission will appoint a monitor to oversee National Grid’s operations & review compliance with this agreement over the next 2 years.  National Grid will pay for the monitor.
  5. National Grid will host public hearings.  At least one will be in Nassau County & another in Suffolk County.

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 

Rally Against the NESE Project: By Land and Sea

Groups to Urge Governor Murphy to Stand Up for His Green Energy Agenda!

Saturday, September 14, 10:30am

Marine Park by the Pier, Red Bank, NJ

What:              Press conference and rally on the water and land urging Governor Murphy to deny the proposed Williams Transco Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NESE) once and for all 

Who:               Concerned citizens and environmental, business and fishing groups, including: Central Jersey Environmental Defenders, Central Jersey Safe Energy Coalition, Clean Ocean Action, Environment New Jersey, Food and Water Watch, Indivisible Bayshore, J.T. White Clammers, Canyon Pass,  League of Women Voters of New Jersey, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, and Waterspirit

Where:            Marine Park by the Pier, Red Bank, NJ 07701

When:             Saturday, September 14, 2019 at 10:30am

Why:               Environmentalists, citizens and businesses are calling on Governor Murphy and the NJDEP to permanently deny the Williams NESE Project before the September 25th deadline.

Red Bank, NJ – As a critical deadline looms on the 3-year battle to stop the massive fracked natural gas project, Williams Transco Northeast Enhancement Supply (NESE), citizens are urged to attend a rally on the Navesink River to tell the Governor that the pending permits must be denied.  The NJDEP is obligated to make a final decision on the offshore pipeline section of the project by September 25, 2019, which put’s the Murphy Administration’s green energy agenda to the test.  Groups will urge that the decision be permanent, with no allowance to reapply.

NESE is the unnecessary, dirty, and environmentally destructive project designed to bring fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York City.  The NJDEP denied permits this past June; however, the type of denial allowed Williams Transco to reapply, which they did. 

A coalition of environmental, fishing, business and community groups has united to fight the pipeline and is hosting a rally to urge Governor Murphy to deny the permits again, and this time to do so with provisions that prohibit reapplication.   The rally will be held by the pier at Marine Park in Red Bank from 10:30am – 12:00pm, and people of all ages are encouraged to attend and bring signs.   Immediately following the rally will be the celebration of the 44th Annual Clearwater Festival.

Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action said,  “It’s imperative for citizens to attend this rally if they care about a healthy future.  While Governor Murphy has repeatedly promised a clean and green energy future for NJ, he needs to know we support that green vision and that his NJDEP must deny the permits.  There is nothing green about this project, in fact it is a lose, lose, lose for the Garden State, so saying no to this project is a no brainer.  We look forward to celebrating with the Governor once he sends Williams and Transco packing back to Oklahoma when his administration denies this project once and for all,” Zipf said.

“The Governor needs to do his job and stand for the environment and the people of New Jersey by denying this pipeline. We have told DEP time and time again that this is the wrong project in the wrong place. It is completely unnecessary and unneeded. The Northeast Supply Enhancement Project would cut through the already polluted and sensitive Raritan Bay and the New York Bay. This fossil fuel project would not only harm our fisheries and the ecology of the Bay but risk the safety and health of people too. Transco does not care about our safety, our clean air and water, they just want to put a dangerous compressor station and natural gas pipeline in our backyard and in our bay,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “DEP did their job in rejecting William Transco’s permits before, now it is their duty to reject them again.” 

“The Murphy Administration has a chance in the coming days to once again protect New Jerseyans from a dangerous source of air and water pollution and double down on its commitment to achieving a 100% clean energy future by permanently rejecting permits to the NESE project,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “New Jersey has denied permits for NESE once. The Murphy administration should move to permanently reject the project and codify their strong decision made in June. I urge the public to join us on September 14th to show the governor we fully support his 100% clean energy goals and oppose NESE.”

State and local environmental organizations are not alone in their opposition to NESE. Numerous New Jersey residents have been actively opposing the project since it was first proposed. Dr. Barbara Cuthbert is a member of the Franklin Township Task Force, a group which formed three years ago to fight back and protect the communities which will be at risk from the proposed compressor station. “Governor Murphy and the DEP know that the NESE Project does not provide health or safety benefits to New Jerseyans. The laws and science, along with the clean energy goals of NJ, are on the side of NJDEP who should deny this third set of applications for good to protect our environment, health and safety from climate change impacts of fossil fuel extraction, transportation and combustion,” said Dr. Cuthbert.

Local community members along the Bayshore have expressed serious concerns over the impact the project will have on their communities and local economies. Despite the Bayshore region being on the front lines in terms of the impacts from the offshore pipeline, the DEP has failed to hold a public hearing on the project in the area. Elisabeth Eittreim, the head of Indivisible Bayshore explained that the organization, “firmly opposes the NESE Pipeline and urges our elected officials to protect our waterways before it is too late.”

Background:

NESE is an unnecessary, dirty, and environmentally destructive project designed to bring fracked natural/methane gas from Pennsylvania to New York City. To do so, Williams and their subsidiary Transco have sought permits to build both a massive new compressor station in Franklin Township and a 23.4-mile offshore pipeline through the Raritan Bay. The compressor station is being built next to an active quarry where blasting regularly occurs. Reports indicate that the compressor station will emit millions of tons of harmful pollutants annually into the air we breathe. Permits for these facilities are being evaluated separately by the NJDEP and a decision is expected in the fall. The nearly 24-mile pipeline, called the Raritan Loop, will rip Raritan Bay in half and continue all the way to the ocean spewing nearly a million tons of toxin muck and drilling mud into the waterways in which we swim and fish.  If approved, NESE will also rollback over 35 years of environmental progress for our waterways.  

ACTION ALERT: Submit Comments to NJDEP by August 23!

NJDEP has issued a COMMENT PERIOD for the June 2019 NESE applications that ends on August 23, 2019

Join us in stopping Williams/Transco’s proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) Project’s Compressor Station 206 and pipeline in Old Bridge/Sayreville and under Raritan Bay that threatens our communities, the environment, and efforts to address risks from climate change in NJ and NY.

ACTIONS:

  • Call Governor Murphy between 9 AM and 5PM at 866-586-4069 or 609-292-6000 & leave a message that you expect the NJDEP to protect our health and safety by denying the permit applications for the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) Project that do not meet standards of NJ regulations.

WHY?  There are many reasons to oppose NESE’s compressor station and pipeline proposed to be built in New Jersey.

  1. Construction would harm the health and environments of humans, marinelife and wildlife.
  2. Operation of the compressor station would threaten our health from toxic air emissions.
  3. Increased velocity of moving gas through pipeline that is 50+ years old risks hastening of corrosion that leads to fires and explosions.
  4. Williams/Transco has a poor safety record.
  5. The NESE Project undercuts goals and efforts of NJ and NY to fight impacts of climate change.

The NESE Project has been stopped twice in New York and twice in New Jersey when 2017 and 2018 applications for permits were withdrawn and/or denied.  Now, following the third applications in June 2019, it’s time for the NJDEP to deny the permit applications with prejudice (a.k.a. “for good”).  

We know that there is no way for Williams/Transco to build NESE’s pipeline and compressor station without threatening our water quality, threatened & endangered species, and wetlands.  We will continue to fight this dangerous and unnecessary project to the end.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE NEEDED NOW!    Many of the concerns of people in NJ & NY have been heard, and they need to be voiced again about the 2019 permit applications – by August 23, 2019.

Now is the time to make it known that you expect the NJDEP to deny the water permit applications that they received on June 12, 2019 for the NESE Project. 

YOUR COMMENTS ARE NEEDED!  Click the button below to submit your comments through the Action Network by the extended deadline of August 23.

SUBMIT COMMENTS

ACTION ALERT: Comment Period Extended to August 23

The fight against Compressor Station 206 and the pipeline in the Raritan Bay is not over! 

Williams/Transco still needs permits from NJDEP and the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to receive FERC’s permission to begin construction. 

  • The earlier permit applications to NJDEP were withdrawn or rejected – 6/23 & 7/10/17 applications withdrawn on 6/15/18 > new applications submitted 6/20/18 > denied by NJDEP on 6/5/19 > new applications submitted on 6/12/19. 

It has been over 3 years since the opposition to the NESE Project began, and there’s still hope that the NJDEP will do the right thing and reject the third set of applications from Williams/Transco for permits since they fail to meet State requirements for the permits

  • The June 12, 2019 applications to NJDEP still do not meet NJ regulations by showing a “compelling public need” for the NESE Project. 
  • They still include harms from construction of the pipeline to our surface water quality, marine life, and threatened & endangered species and their habitats. 
  • The proposed infiltration basin for the compressor station site still does not meet required regulations. 
  • Operations would guarantee decades of toxic air pollution from the compressor station. 

See attachments: NJDEP’s deficiency letters

Now is the time to make it known that you expect the NJDEP to deny the water permit applications that they received on June 12, 2019 for the NESE Project. 

YOUR COMMENTS ARE NEEDED!  Click the button below to submit your comments through the Action Network by the extended deadline of August 23.

SUBMIT COMMENTS

ACTION ALERT – New Jersey does not want NESE, and New York does not need NESE

NJDEP should reject NESE’s applications for water permits by June 5.

WHY?

  • The applications for water permits do not meet state standards.
  • The NESE Project fails to preserve, protect and enhance our natural environment.
  • The NESE Project would harm public health, safety and the general welfare.
  • NESE would not provide benefit to NJ or the municipalities, and there is no proof that NY needs more gas.

PEOPLE & GOVERNMENT GROUPS HAVE SPOKEN

  1. On May 14, Franklin Township passed a resolution urging the NJDEP to deny the applications from Williams/Transco for water permits for the NESE Project.
  2. On May 2, 2019, signatures of over 10,000 people on petitions and letters urging the NJDEP to deny the permit applications were delivered to the NJDEP.
  3. The Town Councils/Committees of Franklin Township, Montgomery, South Brunswick, and Princeton (around the proposed Compressor Station 206) and Aberdeen, Atlantic Highlands, Hazlet, Highlands, Holmdel, Keansburg, Keyport, Long Branch, Matawan, Middletown, Rumson, Sea Bright, and Union Beach (around the proposed Raritan Bay Loop pipeline), along with the Freeholders from Somerset and Monmouth Counties, have adopted resolutions opposing the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project due to risks about safety and health, and the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules require the Department to determine if the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project is in the “public interest” after considering, among other things, the “probable individual and cumulative impacts of the regulated activity on public health and fish and wildlife”.
  4. On May 5, 2019, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation conditionally denied Williams/Transco a Water Quality Certification because the Project, as currently conceived, would likely have significant Water Quality impacts in New York State.

“[A]s currently conceived, construction of the Project would likely have significant water quality impacts in New York State. This includes significant water quality impacts from the resuspension of sediments and other contaminants, including mercury and copper. In addition, as currently proposed, the Project would cause impact s to habitats due to the disturbance of shellfish beds and other benthic resources. … [B]ased on the information currently available, the Department is unable to determine that Transco has demonstrated that construction and operation of the Project would comply with applicable water quality standards.” Additionally, “Transco has not provided sufficient documentation to the Department that any reduction in the rate of dredging to comply with water quality standards would be possible within applicable specified protection work windows.”

Williams/Transco submitted a new application to New York on May 17, 2019.

Offshore Issues

New Jersey does not want NESE, and New York does not need NESE

The construction of the proposed pipeline will result in significant negative impacts to marine fish and fisheries though:

  • increased turbidity
  • re-suspension of toxin-laden sediment
  • noise impacts
  • hydrostatic testing

Furthermore, Williams/Transco does not appear to be able to comply with necessary time of year restrictions that exist to protect fisheries and marine fish, and there has been no known agreement with agencies about Williams/Transco’s request to bypasss these protections to complete construction under a modification of the time- of-year restrictions that were designed to protect species in the Bay.

Construction of the Madison and Raritan Bay Loops of the NESE Project would affect 3,843.6 acres of land (3,726.5 offshore + 117.1 on land) according to FERC’s 1/25/19 FEIS (pg. 2-9).

Construction of the Raritan Bay Loop would inhibit travel of commercial and recreational vehicles in the Bay for nine months, 24/7 within the 14,165.5 acre construction workspace footprint.

The process of installing the pipeline will disturb the toxic-laden sediments at the bottom of the Raritan Bay which will smother marine life dwelling on the floor and elsewhere. The construction of the Raritan Bay Loop in New Jersey, New York and Federal waters would directly disrupt 87.8 acres of seafloor which now provides cover to years of toxics such as PCBs, mercury and copper that would be unearthed and result in deposition of toxics on the seafloor.

The proposal to build approximately six miles of pipeline under the Raritan Bay in NJ waters (out of a 23.5 mile pipeline in the NY Bight) will quite likely end up re-releasing arsenic, lead, PCBs and other toxic substances in the sediment back into the Bay. The resuspension of toxic-laden sediments, throughout the dredging and drilling process as well as through the discharge of drilling muds, hydrostatic testing, vessel anchoring and operations, will significantly degrade the water quality of the Raritan Bay and result in concentrations harmful to fish and shellfish that are detrimental.

Construction of the Raritan Bay Loop of NESE will unearth and re-suspend toxic-and-pathogen-laden sediment.

  • NESE’s Final Environmental Impact Statement revealed that construction of the Raritan Bay Loop would result in the resuspension of 1,091,734 cubic yards of toxic-laden sediment.
  • The re-suspended fine-grain sediments will not readily resettle and contain known harmful chemicals such as heavy metals, methylmercury, dioxin, and others.
  • The re-suspended contaminates will affect habitat quality and risk contamination of fishery resources.
  • The seafloor would be covered by over 1.2 inches of sediment – known to include harmful pollutants – on areas up to 21.7 acres (from clamshell dredging), up to 3.7 acres (from use of a hand jet and submersible pump/suction dredge), and over 183.2 acres (from backfilling over the pipeline).
  • Thinner deposits of 0.12 inches or more would cover over 251.7 acres from excavation and another 695.7 acres for backfill (total of 947.4 acres).
  • Over 134 acres of NJDEP 2014 hard clam beds would receive some level of additional sedimentation, with 76 acres receiving more than 1.2 inches of sedimentation.
  • The redistribution of sediments that fall from suspension, will bury benthic and demersal species, resulting in mortality of eggs and other life stages, including winter flounder that spawn in shallow, inshore waters in the project area. The FEIS specifically notes that eggs and larva of this species could be directly affected by excavation or by smothering in toxic-laden sediments during construction.
  • The FERC FEIS indicates that when benthic habitat is physically disrupted from dredging and smothering, the community can be expected to recolonize in roughly 1-3 years. However, this estimate does not account for the toxic-laden sediment which will now be unearthed, impacting the benthic layer and its viability as potential habitat for marine life.
  • If absorbed by phytoplankton, the contaminants risk bio-accumulation throughout the food chain and will significantly impair fish populations and the fishing industry which depends on these species.
  • Bottom dwelling marine life in or near the excavation will be exposed to toxins and therefore significantly harmed. Dredging up buried industrial toxins (like arsenic, lead, zinc and mercury) and organic compounds (PCBs, DDT, dioxins) from the seabed will poison fish, shellfish and marine life in the Raritan and Sandy Hook Bays. Recovery from such sedimentation for bottom-dwelling species such as surf clams could take 3 years, or even longer if the physical characteristics of the habitat are altered (e.g., sediment type, hydrology), resulting in recolonization of different species.
  • Construction of the pipeline would cause over 134 acres of NJDEP sport ocean fishing grounds to be subjected to some level of additional sedimentation. Across the Project Area, up to 573.3 acres of shallow bay waters would be subject to some level of additional sedimentation. If this sedimentation occurs during the spawning period of some fish, fish eggs could be smothered and die.

Construction of the Raritan Bay Loop of NESE would increase turbidity. The sediment resuspension and subsequent increase turbidity will result in direct and indirect adverse impacts on designated essential fish habitat.

  • Increases in turbidity can affect fish physiology and behavior which may impair migration, breeding, spawning and development.
  • Potential physiological effects from increase turbidity include mechanical abrasion of surface membranes, delayed larval and embryonic development, reduced bivalve pumping rates, and interference with respiratory functions.

Construction of the Raritan Bay Loop would go through the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund site, specifically in Area 7 (Morgan Shore Approach HDD exit pit) and pipeline pre-lay trenching for about 1,000 feet in Area 11.

  • Offshore samplings of sediment by Williams/Transco near the Morgan Shore portion of the pipeline showed a greater number of exceedances of established thresholds for several contaminants including dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, and heavy metals, such as mercury.
  • Disruption of this soil will push contaminated soil into the bay and further impact water quality and human health.
  • The currents in Raritan Bay will ensure that not all re-suspended sediment will fall back down to the seafloor, but will continue to mix in the water column.

Williams/Transco intends to discharge over 690,000 gallons of drilling fluid into the water of the Bay.

  • Williams/Transco has indicated that it will use biocides, which will contaminate the water quality and impact the food chain, increasing the impairment for fishing and shellfishing in these areas.

The process for the hydrostatic testing will also result in negative impacts to fisheries by killing fish eggs and larva, as well as by further disturbing the benthic habitat and layer of the Raritan Bay.

  • During the process, a hose would be placed into the bay which will syphon up 3.5 million gallons of water. The water will be syphoned at an extremely fast rate of 2,350 gallons per minute. The water will be filtered through a mesh screen before entering the pipeline. The position of the water intake will be halfway into the water column or at least 10 feet below the surface. Importantly, the Raritan Bay is a shallow waterway.
  • Therefore, due to the proximity of the intake, the shallowness of the water and the pressure of the intake, the benthic layer will be significantly disturbed. Juvenile and early stage adult fish and invertebrates could be impinged on the intake screens and zooplankton (including plankton) could be entrained or entrapped.
  • This will result in increased re-suspension of toxic sediment, increased turbidity, and the destruction of all larva and eggs near the intake.

Williams/Transco plans to release water, treated with a known toxin, used in hydrostatically testing the pipeline into the bay.

  • Their plan involves releasing 3.2 million gallons of seawater that was treated with the toxic chemical CORRTREAT 15316. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, CORRTREAT 15316 is a highly toxic substance harmful to humans and marine life.
  • Clariant, the manufacturer of CORRTREAT specifically notes on its Safety Data Sheet that “the product should not be allowed to enter drains, water courses, or the soil.” [Clariant, Safety Data Sheet: CORRTREAT 15316. Pg. 4.]

The construction of the Raritan Bay Loop would cross 8.1 miles of the Raritan Bay Significant Habitat Complex; and it would cross 7 recreational fishing grounds in NJ and NY waters that are designated as “prime fishing areas”.

  • The redistribution of sediments that fall from suspension, will bury benthic and demersal species, resulting in mortality of eggs and other life stages, including winter flounder that spawn in shallow, inshore waters in the project area.
  • The resuspension of toxic sediment will bioaccumulation osprey and bald eagle populations through ingestion of contaminated marine life.
  • There was no analysis provided to document anticipated synergistic effects of exposure to a combination of toxins to any marine species (benthic or pelagic, migratory or otherwise).

REGULATORY CONSIDERATIONS

  1. Under the Coastal Zone Management Rules, at N.J.A.C.7:7-9.5(c), development which lowers the water quality to such an extent as to interfere with the movement of fish along migratory pathways is prohibited.
    • The construction of the Raritan Bay Loop would threaten to harm marine mammals’ communication, navigation, travel, feeding and breeding with noise from construction as well as increased turbidity in the water, and it would kill (smother and poison) benthic communities from dredging and backfilling activities. Construction of NESE’s Raritan Bay Loop will impact the endangered Atlantic sturgeon’s migratory pathway, and harm to Atlantic sturgeon, which are benthic feeders, includes exposure to re- suspended contaminants, bioaccumulation of toxins from contamination of benthic invertebrates, seafloor and benthic habitat disturbances, noise, and vessel strikes.
  2. Currently, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined that the NESE Pipeline may affect, and is likely to adversely affect the right whale, fin whale, and Atlantic sturgeon. Therefore, formal consultation pursuant to the Endangered Species Act has been requested. Until consultation is finalized, the impacts to these species are unknown. [NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service. Revised Determination of Effect and Request for Consultation. Feb. 7, 2019.]
  3. Construction of the Raritan Bay Loop of NESE would violate NJ’s Surface Water Quality Standards.
    • Construction of the Raritan Bay Loop would pollute the water so that their existing uses, such as shellfish harvesting and the maintenance, migration, and propagation of natural and established biota, would be impaired, in violation of Surface Water Quality Standards – N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.12(d).
    • Construction of the pipeline would increase the level of total suspended solids in Raritan Bay to an extent that it would render the water unsuitable for designated uses, in violation of N.J.A.C. 7:9B- 1.14(d)(7).
    • Construction would also resuspend toxic substances in the water column such that they would be detrimental to the natural aquatic biota, rendering the waters unsuitable for the designated uses, in violation of N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.14(d)(12).
    • Resuspended sediment could also exceed numerical criteria for several contaminants, including mercury and copper, as set forth in N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.14(d).
    • Construction would cause the suspension and eventual deposition of settleable solids in amounts that would be noticeable in the water and on aquatic substrata in quantities detrimental to the natural biota and rendering the waters unsuitable for the designated uses, in violation of N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.14(d)(3).
    • By resuspending sediment in the water column, construction of the pipeline would also exceed numerical criteria for several contaminants, including mercury and copper, set forth in N.J.A.C. 7:9B- 1.14(f)(7),(g).
  4. According to N.J.A.C. 7:7A, Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules, the Department may not issue a Freshwater Wetlands permit unless the Project
    • will not cause or contribute to a violation of any applicable State water quality standard;
    • will not cause or contribute to a violation of any applicable toxic effluent standard or prohibition imposed pursuant to the Water Pollution Control Act;
    • will not cause or contribute to a significant degradation, as defined at 40 C.F.R. 230.10(c), of ground or surface waters;
    • is in the public interest, as determined by the Department in consideration of the following: The extent and permanence of the beneficial or detrimental effects which the proposed regulated activity may have on the public and private uses for which the property is suited; and
    • will not involve a discharge of dredged material or a discharge of fill material, unless the material is clean, suitable material free from toxic pollutants in toxic amounts, which meets Department rules for use of dredged or fill material.

Onland Issues

In New Jersey, the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project would result in a permanent loss of:

  • 3.9 acres of wetlands,
  • 14.5 acres of forest, and
  • 8.5 acres of upland vegetation.

Construction of the NESE Project would disturb another:

  • 10 acres of wetlands (6 of which are designated as exceptional value resources) and
  • 65.8 acres of upland vegetation (37.1 open acres + 28.7 acres of forest).

Forests help to address stormwater runoff, and the Department considers impacts to forested areas to be permanent if not restored within six months. Recovery of forested areas that are not permanently removed could take 50+ years, so the real permanent loss of forested area in NJ would be 43.2 acres.

The NESE Project in New Jersey would cross 14 streams/waterbodies (8 for the pipeline & access road, and 4 in construction worksites) and 5.2 Flood Hazard acres onland.

The Compressor Station 206 site is in the Millstone Watershed which is designated as impaired, and no new construction there can impair this watershed further.

Plans for construction of an infiltration basin to control stormwater runoff at the CS206 site need to meet requirements of Dam Safety Standards at N.J.A.C. 7:20. Williams/Transco initially submitted an application for a Dam Safety Permit in April/May 2019 – nearly one year after they submitted their second application for water permits to the Department on June 20, 2018 – and they continue to submit changes in plans to address concerns about the application expressed to them by the Department.

Construction of the Madison and Raritan Bay Loops would cross or be next to toxic or Superfund sites such as the Raritan Bay Slag & Global Sanitary Superfund Sites and E.I. DuPont DeNemours & Co.

Construction of the onland pipeline would go through acid producing soils, rendering re-vegetation extremely problematic, potentially exacerbating erosion and excess stormwater runoff.

REGULATORY CONSIDERATIONS

  1. Given the likely presence of acid producing soil in the areas where HDD is proposed, the permit applications to Land Use and Water Supply & Geoscience do not meet the Goals of the Stormwater Management Act Rules for stormwater management planning found at N.J.A.C. 7:8-2.2(a)(1) – Reduce flood damage, including damage to life and property or N.J.A.C. 7:8-2.2(a)(3) – Reduce soil erosion from any development or construction project. As has been noted in my prior comment and those of others, excavation in acid producing soils leads to poor revegetation possibility which then threatens increased risk of erosion and flooding.
  2. According to the Coastal Zone Management Rules, N.J.A.C. 7:7-9.39(a), “Special hazard areas include areas with a known actual or potential hazard to public health, safety, and welfare, or to public or private property, such as the navigable air space around airports and seaplane landing areas, potential evacuation zones, and areas where hazardous substances as defined at N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11b are used or disposed, including adjacent areas and areas of hazardous material contamination.” (italics added)
  3. According to N.J.A.C. 7:7A, Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules, the Department may not issue a Freshwater Wetlands permit unless the Project –
    • will not cause or contribute to a violation of any applicable State water quality standard;
    • will not cause or contribute to a violation of any applicable toxic effluent standard or prohibition imposed pursuant to the Water Pollution Control Act;
    • will not cause or contribute to a significant degradation, as defined at 40 C.F.R. 230.10(c), of ground or surface waters;
    • is in the public interest, as determined by the Department in consideration of the following: The extent and permanence of the beneficial or detrimental effects which the proposed regulated activity may have on the public and private uses for which the property is suited;
    • will not involve a discharge of dredged material or a discharge of fill material, unless the material is clean, suitable material free from toxic pollutants in toxic amounts, which meets Department rules for use of dredged or fill material; and
    • in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:7A-2.7, is part of a project that in its entirety complies with the Stormwater Management rules at N.J.A.C. 7:8.
  4. With planned trenching and HDD construction of parts of the Madison Loop through or near toxic sites, the applications for permits for the NESE Project do not meet the Goals of the Stormwater Management Act Rules for stormwater management planning found at N.J.A.C. 7:8-2.2(a)(6) – Prevent, to the greatest extent feasible, an increase in nonpoint pollution.
  5. Considering the inappropriate and/or incomplete data about soils and geology constraints for the proposed retention basins and the tie-in pipeline at Compressor Station 206, and incomplete consideration of alternative sites for Compressor Station 206 that would not involve a wetland or have less adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem, the permit applications for the NESE Project do not meet all the conditions listed in N.J.S.A. 13:9B-9, the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act.
  6. Considering the identified issues with the design of the infiltration basin at the Compressor Station 206 site, and lack of consideration of the immediate and long-term impacts from all of NESE’s pipeline construction, the applications for water permits for the NESE Project do not meet the Goals of the Stormwater Management Act Rules for stormwater management planning found at N.J.A.C. 7:8-2.2(a).

Greenhouse Gas Issues

Building and operating a 32,000 horsepower gas-fired compressor station and 23.4 miles of offshore pipeline that will have a 50-60 year minimum useful will create an unneeded but available supply of natural gas at a time when we have acknowledged the need for drastic emission reductions. This Project goes against the renewable energy goals of New Jersey & New York, and will see renewables continue to be blocked from fair market entry.

Construction and operation of the compressor station and pipelines that are part of the NESE Project would exacerbate climate change and increase the severity and intensity of the impacts associated with it.

FERC acknowledged the specific vulnerability of New York City to climate change by listing projected changes on page 4-388 in the FEIS (1/25/19) for NESE:

New Jersey is an Ozone Compromised Region, and the proposed Compressor Station 206 would emit 33.41 tons of Methane (CH4) and a projected 3.29 tons of Nitrous Oxide (N2O) every year, and this does not include methane leaked from the pipelines.

Compressor stations and gas pipelines leak methane – the most potent short-term greenhouse gas.

Even over CO2’s average 100-year lifetime in the atmosphere, methane yields 25 to 32 times the global warming potential of CO2. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, producing 84 times the global warming potential (GWP) of an equivalent weight of CO2 over a 20-year period. Nitrous oxide is worse still, creating 298 times the global warming potential of CO2 over a 100-year period, as well as causing depletion of stratospheric ozone, leading to more sun burns and skin cancer.

In short, methane and nitrous oxide are much worse greenhouse gases than CO2, especially when we consider the speed with which we need to act. CO2 is only the most damaging greenhouse gas emission because there is so much more of it emitted worldwide.

NESE’s Applications & reviews clearly omitted assessing actual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, both initially and cumulatively, for the impact on Central New Jersey from Compressor Station 206 (CS206).

* Note: Any accounting for fugitive emissions (leaks) is likely grossly underestimated.

The threshold for comparing this to the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) threshold of 75,000 tons per year of emissions of 132,720 tons of Greenhouse Gas Equivalent per year (as noted in the ap4plication) was not triggered because CS206 was not considered a major source for the NJDEP.


According to NOAA / NASA, 2018 was the 4th warmest year on record (since 1880). “2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.

Since the 1880s, the average global surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius).

This warming has been driven in large part by increased emissions into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases caused by human activities, according to Schmidt. (SOURCE: nasa.gov)

The leakage of methane from pipelines and methane release of will contribute to ongoing climate change with real impacts to New Jersey. The construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure will hamper New Jersey’s clean energy goals and is against the State’s Global Warming Response Act goals.

Health Issues

In addition to threats to health from the toxic emissions from the gas-fired compressor station units, the NESE Project’s impact on climate change would also harm our health, security and economy from leaking and burning of natural gas – more significant flooding, hurricanes, heat waves, air and water temperature increases, other health risks and the likelihood of infectious diseases and stress, and displacement.

  • Extreme weather events not only result in damage to property, businesses, infrastructure and the environment, but also trigger stress and depression in people and are associated with costly health risks like water borne infections as well as increases in dampness and mold that trigger more allergies and respiratory disorders. Milder, shorter winters have increased the population of disease-carrying insects in our area. Longer and wetter seasons lead to more asthma, allergies and respiratory disorders. Flooding events are a pathway for pollution and bacteria to enter our waterways.
  • As the climate warms and atmospheric carbon dioxide increases, the amount and potency of the allergens like ragweed and airborne fungi increases, with significant consequences for exacerbating asthma and other forms of respiratory distress.
  • Other consequences could include higher cooling costs and a heightened risk of heat stroke.
  • Warmer temperatures will also exacerbate the risk of vector-borne diseases like Lyme and West Nile

Toxins from proposed Compressor Station 206

The Department and FERC have denied requests to conduct a Health Impact Assessment around the site of the proposed Compressor Station 206 even though the emissions will contain cancer-causing elements; the Department adopted more stringent reporting thresholds for HAPs after issuing an Air Pollution Permit for Compressor Station 206 under the less protective standards; and the emissions from Compressor Station 206 will exceed the levels of the new, more protective HAPs standards. NJDEP determined that the compressor station would be a “minor” source of air pollution and, as such, the permit issued by the NJDEP was for each turbine as a separate unit rather than basing their decision on facility-wide emissions from two turbines at a site adjacent to another air polluting industrial facility – Trap Rock Quarry.

Williams/Transco reported that they expect the two gas-fired turbines at Compressor Station 206 to emit the following each year:

Formaldehyde

  • Known Carcinogen
  • Suspected gastrointestinal/liver, immune system, neuro, reproductive, respiratory, and skin/sense organ toxicant

Acetaldehyde

  • Possible human carcinogen
  • Suspected cardiovascular/blood, developmental, gastrointestinal/liver, neuro, respiratory, skin/sense organ toxicant

Acrolein

  • Known irritant of eyes, skin, nasal passage & respiratory system
  • Lethal if high level of exposure for short time

Benzene

  • Known Carcinogen
  • Recognized developmental and reproductive toxicants

Ethylbenzene

  • Possible human carcinogen
  • Suspected blood/cardiovascular, developmental, endocrine, gastrointestinal/liver, kidney, neuro, reproductive, respiratory, and skin/sense organ toxicant

Naphthalene

  • Possible human carcinogen
  • Suspected cardiovascular/blood, developmental, gastrointestinal/liver, neuro, respiratory, skin/sense organ toxicant

Propylene Oxide

  • Possible human carcinogen
  • Known irritant of eyes, skin, nasal passage & respiratory system

Toluene

  • Recognized developmental toxicant
  • Suspected cardiovascular/blood, gastrointestinal/liver, immune system, kidney, neuro-, reproductive, respiratory, and skin/sense organ toxicant

Xylenes

  • Suspected cardiovascular, developmental, liver, immune system, kidney, respiratory, skin, reproductive, and immune system toxin

Ammonia

  • Suspected gastrointestinal/liver, immune system, neuro, reproductive, respiratory, and skin/sense organ
  • toxicant

Toxins from proposed Raritan Bay Loop

The re-suspension of toxic-and-pathogen-laden sediment and the discharge of chemically laden drilling fluid would have significant health impacts to the people of New Jersey. The toxins include arsenic which is known to cause a variety of cancers in humans. Lead, another heavy metal which samples found exceeded the state thresholds is proven to cause neurologic impairment, especially in children. The re-suspended PCBs will enter the food chain and have significant effects on human health. More than 90% of human exposure to PCBs is through food, including fish and shellfish.

The currents in both the Raritan and Lower New York Bays run counter-clockwise. Therefore, both the toxic-and- pathogen-laden sediment and the chemically laced drilling fluid will be caught by the currents and pushed toward the shores of the Bayshore. The pipeline construction is planned to go through Areas 7 and 11 of the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund Site where the slag is contaminated by known pollutants such as lead, arsenic, antimony, copper, iron and chromium. Other metal contaminants here include manganese, vanadium and zinc. EPA sampling has found contaminates in the soil and surface waters in these areas. These known harmful chemicals may make their way onshore, polluting the coast and impacting public health.

A release of 3.2 million gallons of seawater that was treated with CORRTREAT 15316 from hydrostatic testing of the Raritan Bay Loop poses a threat to the health of people and marinelife. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, CORRTREAT 15316 is a highly toxic substance harmful to humans and marine life. Clariant, the manufacturer of CORRTREAT specifically notes on its Safety Data Sheet that “the product should not be allowed to enter drains, water courses, or the soil.” [Clariant, Safety Data Sheet: CORRTREAT 15316. Pg. 4.]

REGULATORY CONSIDERATIONS

NESE does not serve essential health or safety needs of the municipality in which the proposed regulated activity is located, and the proposed use does not serve existing needs of the residents of the State.

Reference: Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules 7:7A-1.3 Definitions
“Compelling public need” means that based on specific facts, the proposed regulated activity will serve an essential health or safety need of the municipality in which the proposed regulated activity is located, that the public health and safety benefit from the proposed use and that the proposed use is required to serve existing needs of the residents of the State, and that there is no other means available to meet the established public need.

NJDEP may only issue a Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit if the agency determines that the regulated activity is in the public interest after considering the “functions and values provided by the freshwater wetlands and probable individual and cumulative impacts of the regulated activity on public health and fish and wildlife.” [N.J.A.C. 7:7A–10.2(b)12vii]. The term “public health” requires the Department to consider the potential safety and air pollution impacts of proposed Compressor Station 206, Madison Loop and the Raritan Bay Loop as part of its “public interest” analysis.

Safety Issues

Natural gas is primarily methane, a highly flammable and explosive gas.

Data and plans about addressing the risks of and preventing catastrophic accidents from increased corrosion and leaks on components of the compressor station and the pipelines have not been fully disclosed by Transco; and explosions, fires and leaks would likely contribute to degradation of water quality and impact wetlands.

Franklin Township received a report from a local resident and pipeline engineer expert through its Franklin Township Task Force (FTTF) detailing the erosion risks of Transco’s Mainline A and C segments traversing through Franklin Township, installed in 1950 and 1969 respectively, and another report from an expert who reviewed confidential CEII data provided by Williams/Transco to FERC and concluded that he could not independently verify or evaluate claims of Transco pertaining to safety of Transco’s existing and proposed pipeline system parameters – pipe grade, thickness and diameter as well as maximum operating pressure (MAOP) that can change by pipe segment – since important information was missing.

Williams/Transco has not provided any details to FERC or NJDEP regarding the current state of their aging pipeline segments, any reports of degradation of pipeline integrity, or any specific counter-measures taken over the past 50 years to abate the propagation of corrosion on its pipeline system despite Transco claiming to inspect mainlines A and C every 10 years.

Williams/Transco has a poor safety record in the management of its pipelines, compressor stations, and processing plants. In the past ten years, facilities of Williams/Transco have been cited for numerous violations for not following their own safety procedures, and they have reported at least 15 incidents of explosions and/or fires at their facilities to PHMSA.

REGULATORY CONSIDERATIONS

NJDEP may only issue a Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit if the agency determines that the regulated activity is in the public interest after considering the “functions and values provided by the freshwater wetlands and probable individual and cumulative impacts of the regulated activity on public health and fish and wildlife.” [N.J.A.C. 7:7A–10.2(b)12vii]. The term “public health” requires the Department to consider the potential safety and air pollution impacts of proposed Compressor Station 206, Madison Loop and the Raritan Bay Loop as part of its “public interest” analysis.

Need Issues

There is no demonstrated need for NESE, and existing facilities can and will continue to meet energy demands in National Grid’s service territory.

Williams/Transco and National Grid have failed to establish a “demonstrated need that cannot be satisfied by existing facilities.” The alleged purpose of the project is to bring an “incremental” amount of natural gas to National Grid’s service territory to meet winter heating needs. However, the need for this project has not been independently documented, and studies show existing facilities can currently meet the heating needs for the service territory. Williams/Transco and National Grid have claimed that the project is necessary to meet a 10% increase in natural gas demand over the next decade; however the projection is based on outdated information.(1) Independent studies contradict the claims of Williams/Transco and National Grids for these reasons:

  • The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), which maintains and regulates the state’s energy system, found that energy use in New York is expected to decrease over the next decade.(2)
  • The Long Island Power Authority, which serves 1.1 million customers on Long Island, the Rockaways and Queens, has also forecasted flat energy demand until 2035.(3)
  • New York City recently passed the most aggressive building energy efficiency standards in the nation. The Climate Mobilization Act will require buildings over 25,000 square feet to cut climate emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Therefore, residential and commercial buildings will be required to invest in energy efficiency which will further decrease heating demands over the coming decades.
  • According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, from 2000 to 2050, natural gas consumption in the residential and commercial sectors will remain flat due to efficiency gains and population shifts which counterbalance demand growth.(4)

Williams/Transco’s justification for the alleged increase in demand is based on the locally mandated elimination of heavy No. 6 and No. 4 fuel oil from use in residential boilers, from which Williams/Transco and National Grid claim they will convert roughly 8,000 customers per year to natural gas.(5) This claim has also been questioned and challenged based on the following facts:

  • All of the No. 6 boilers in New York City residential buildings were converted from heavy oil long ago.
  • The New York City Housing Authority stopped using both No. 6 and No. 4 oil and converted to natural gas. Currently, the Housing Authority relies on natural gas for 98% of its heating needs.(6)
  • The oil burners which convert to No. 2 oil will be required to use No. 2 oil mixed with biodiesel. New York City currently requires 5% biodiesel mixed with ultralow sulfur No. 2. In 2025, the standard increases to 10% and eventually 20% by 2034.(7)
  • Less than 446 No. 4 oil boilers (which must be converted by 2030 under New York City regulations) exist in National Grid’s service area. Even if all were converted to natural gas and not ultra-low sulfur No. 2 oil and biodiesel, this conversion does not require anything close to the 400 million cubic yards the applicant is seeking to bring to New York per day.(8)
  • The remaining oil burners either use or will convert to ultralow sulfur No. 2 oil, which can replace heavier dirtier home heating oil without any modifications to furnace systems. Due to the fact both No. 2 and biodiesel can be adopted without any modifications to home furnace systems, it acts as a true bridge to renewable energy and energy efficiency. Home and building owners will not need to invest in a new heating system and therefore will not be deterred from future distributed renewable energy investments or energy efficiency investments.

Thus, the projection and conversion statistics highlight how demand is currently met, and will continue to be met, through “existing facilities.” Moreover, with the new focus and requirements in New York City, investments in energy efficiency will be expected. Energy efficiency is readily available and is a cheaper and more environmentally sound. Energy efficiency programs have proven to be the most cost effective means of both lowering rates and reducing carbon emissions.(9)

(1) 350 Brooklyn, False Demand: The Case Against the Williams Fracked Gas Pipeline. March 2019.

(2) New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), Power Trends: New York’s evolving Electric Grid 2017, p. 12. The report’s data is from the 2017 Load & Capacity Data Report, known as “the Gold Book.”

(3) LIPA, “Integrated Resource Plan and Repowering Studies – FAQs” (2017).

(4) U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2019 (Jan. 24, 2019), p. 82.

(5) See, Mark Harrington, supra. National Grid’s own proffered energy plan for 80% GHG reductions by 2050 calls for increased burning of natural gas for heating from 55% to 60% of heating sources. For natural gas GHG reductions, it primarily recommends converting half of all vehicles to electric by 2030. National Grid, Northeast 80×50 Pathway (June 15, 2018).

(6) City of New York, Local Law 43 of 2010 and Rules of the City of New York, Title 15, §§ 2-15(b)(2), (c)(1) and (d). The Rules were promulgated by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (“NYCDEP”). In 2010, only one percent of buildings were using No. 4 and No. 6 heating oil – but those boilers’ emissions were causing 86 percent of soot pollution in the City. D. Seamonds, D. Lowell, T. Balon, The Bottom of the Barrel: How the Dirtiest Heating Oil Pollutes Our Air and Harms Our Health (Environmental Defense Fund, 2016).

(7) See Local Law 119 of 2016 and NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services, “New York City Submits Strong Comments to EPA Supporting Biodiesel,” Biodiesel Magazine (Oct. 2017).

(8) New York City adopted more comprehensive legislation in 2015, Local Law 38, that effectively bans the burning of No. 6 fuel oil for any purpose by January 1, 2020, and the burning of No. 4 fuel oil by January 1, 2030 (except that any boiler replaced before the deadline must use a cleaner fuel). City of New York. “Local Laws of The City of New York for the Year 2015, No. 38” (Apr. 16, 2015.

(9) See, The Cost of Saving Electricity Through Energy Efficiency Programs Funded by Utility Customers: 2009 – 2015. Energy Analysis and Environmental Impact Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (June 2018).

REGULATORY CONSIDERATIONS

Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act – The NJDEP’s determination of “public interest” must consider the “relative extent of the public and private need for the proposed regulated activity.” N.J.S.A. 13:9B-11(b) and N.J.A.C. 7:7A–10.2(b)12ii

The criteria for “need” for a project under the Natural Gas Act, governing FERC’s decisions, is distinct from the criteria from “need” under the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations as well as the “public interest” under New Jersey’s Freshwater Wetlands and Water Quality Certificate Standards.

The NESE Project does not meet the standards for “public interest” noted in N.J.S.A. 13:9B-11, the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act when one looks at the need to preserve natural resources; the relative extent of the public and private need for the regulated activity; the practicability of using reasonable alternative locations and methods (e.g., renewable energy sources and energy efficiency initiatives); the economic value both public and private, of the proposed regulated activity to the general area; and the ecological value of the freshwater wetlands and probable impact on public health and fish and wildlife.

Note:

Many points noted in this document, along with their references, are from FERC’s 1/25/19 Final Environmental Impact Statement for NESE, the 5/2/19 comments provided to the NJDEP by attorneys from Clean Ocean Action & the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the report by Suzanne Mattei (3/19/19), False Demand: The case against the Williams fracked gas pipeline. 350.org.

Attachments / Links:

ACTION ALERT – Urge Governor Murphy and NJDEP TO DENY WATER PERMIT APPLICATIONS for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NESE)

Many have sent comments to NJDEP about the deficiencies in the applications of Williams/Transco for water permits needed to construct the NESE Project. The comment period ended on May 2.

Even though FERC issued their “Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity” Order on May 3, the NESE Project cannot be constructed without receiving water permits from NY’s Department of Environmental Conservation and NJ’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Below are links to recent publications showing the risks of NESE as well as the fact that NESE is not needed even though gas companies in New York are threatening moratoriums if the NESE Project is not approved.

DO NOT BE SWAYED BY SUCH PROPAGANDA!

  • There are other options for future developments to get energy in New York.
  • The claim that the gas is needed to help National Grid’s customers change from using oil to using gas is false.

Pipeline planned for Raritan Bay is a safety risk that keeps us all dependent on dirty fossil fuels, environmentalist says

Rigorous report proves lack of need for Williams fracked gas pipeline – This Press Release makes note of the critical findings in the report and includes a valid link to the Study.

FALSE DEMAND: The case against the Williams fracked gas pipeline

Also, see the comment letters submitted to NJDEP by:

ACTION ALERT: Urge Governor Murphy & NJDEP to Deny Water Permit Applications for Compressor Station 206

2019 is the last phase of the permitting and regulatory process for NESE.

We’ve been at this for a long time, and now is a critical time to have your voices heard where they can make a difference.

THE BALL IS IN GOVERNOR MURPHY’S COURT!

FERC issued their final Environmental Impact Statement on 1/25/19. They claim that any impacts from NESE will be temporary or minor. Though we disagree and have sent comments about our concerns to FERC, we still continue to anticipate that FERC will issue the Certificate of Public Convenience & Necessity since FERC does not seriously consider all that we care about and has only rejected a few pipeline projects (because the company did not have buyers for the gas). The Certificate could be issued as early as the end of February and as late as late April 2019.

Now, it’s up to Governor Murphy and the NJDEP to deny or approve water permit applications. NJDEP can stop the assault on our health, safety and the environment posed by the NESE Project.

Williams/Transco submitted their water permit applications to NJDEP on June 20, 2018. They expect to receive the permits in April 2019, but NJDEP has one calendar year to provide or reject the permit applications.

The proposed Compressor Station 206 and pipeline under Raritan Bay will not be built if Williams/Transco does not get all permits needed from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) & New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).

Please see the new summary of concerns with the NESE Project (PDFs attached) for:

TO DO

Urge Governor Murphy and the NJDEP to look at all aspects of the applications for water permits and hold Williams/Transco to high standards.