Pennsylvania

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PA DEP approves water permits for PennEast pipeline

A sign opposing the PennEast pipeline project on a lawn in Durham Township, Pa. The Pennsylvania DEP issued the pipeline water permits on Friday.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A sign opposing the PennEast pipeline project on a lawn in Durham Township, Pa. The Pennsylvania DEP issued the pipeline water permits on Friday.

PennEast pipeline company says it has received a significant water quality permit from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, suggesting confidence by state regulators that the pipeline can be built while minimizing impacts to waterways during and after construction. The 401 Water Quality Certification indicates the company has met requirements under the Clean Water Act, a prerequisite for federal approvals.

“The Department’s year-long review and conclusion provides additional assurance that PennEast can protect the environment,” said PennEast spokeswoman Pat Kornick, specifically water resources.”

Kornick says the permits are a significant step in the long regulatory process that began in 2014, and that DEP informed PennEast Friday afternoon that the permits were issued.

“PennEast has reviewed hundreds of route options, and made dozens of modifications to the pipeline to minimize impact on the environment,” she said.

DEP did not return a request for comment, and the permits were not listed in the weekly Pennsylvania Bulletin.

The 120-mile, 36-inch pipeline would run from Luzerne County, through Northeast Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River, and into New Jersey, terminating in Mercer County. The project has met significant opposition on both sides of the river, where residents have raised safety and environmental concerns.

Maya van Rossum, from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, says the pipeline will cause “irreparable harm.”

“Governor Wolf and Pennsylvania DEP are making a mockery of our environmental protection laws when it comes to these pipeline projects,” said van Rossum. “They are selling communities down the river as fast as they possibly can.”

Van Rossum says the decision took her by surprise as she had a scheduled meeting with DEP officials, including acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell, about the permits. She says the DEP has not completed the reviews necessary for making a decision on PennEast. “It’s a total sell-out,” she said.

The pipeline project is still waiting for the final environmental approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which Kornick says is expected in April. FERC had delayed issuing its final Environmental Impact Statement after critical comments were submitted by the EPA and New Jersey DEP, both of which pointed to a lack of crucial information in the federal application.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region III office concluded that the project “results in significant adverse environmental impacts,’’ including possibly mobilizing naturally occurring arsenic into groundwater.

PennEast’s Kornick says the company continues to work with the state and federal agencies and plans to have the line operational by the second half of 2018.

Comments

  • Trout15

    How can they issue this so prematurely? So many issues remain unanswered. Just because PADEP is suffering 40% budget cuts and 25% staff cuts, does not mean they can cut corners on permit reviews—particularly when so many trout streams and cold water fisheries are crossed.

    As of August 2016 PennEast hadn’t even undertaken ANY geotechnical studies (they had TWO whole years) to prove they could safely cross the the heavily undermined Susquehanna River—during and after construction. Instead they plan to excavate a trench ONLY 5′ deep (last I saw) to bury a 36″ wide pipe shallowly exposing it to risky riverbed scour (google Yellowstone or Arkansas River pipeline blowouts—Yellowstone was 8′ deep and river still exposed it.)

    At the time they’d only published a very speculative reading of the mining history (” it is not believed that the Hillman seam could have been illegally mined out under the river beyond the mapped extents. The terminations of the workings appear…”) guessing it was safe to OPEN TRENCH and DAM half the Susquehanna River at Wilkes-Barre in Wyoming Valley despite shafts nearby. And they haven’t released any engineering studies since—at least not to a concerned public nor decision making agencies like FERC—so how can PADEP even approve this without the requisite studies? Then there’s the issue of mercury and PCBs in river sediments they’ll be exhuming. Not atypical—PennEast DEIS was woefully incomplete and misleading.

    Another case of blanket pre-approvals for a project that condemns and commits powerless landowners to a route that could later prove impossible—only after they’ve lost their trees, had their access severed, and land dug up?

    Is the decision and any conditions published anywhere? Can’t find on PA DEP website. Last time I got through they said they didn’t even have a computer to store applications on so public couldn’t see them unless they were willing to spend couple days in the offices copying thousands of pages. No way search an application to see if info there, let alone make sure it was correct! And most of PennEast’s submissions are rife with errors. The regulator is handicapped and the regulated gets away with shoddy work! Disservice to PA citizens who deserve better.

  • Scott Cannon

    Dear Pat Kornick, when you say “The Department’s year-long review and conclusion provides additional assurance that PennEast can protect the environment,” your are not being honest. To “protect the environment” means to do nothing to it. What you really mean is that you are mitigating the damage you are doing to the environment. Let’s be clear and accurate here please.

  • Bruce Baxter

    After NOT taking into consideration padep swept under the rug water/fracking complaints from the past 5 years and the actual catastrophes that happen daily. They decided to side with the incomplete/fraudulent environmental impact studies and the lobby/BRIBE monies from the industry. FERC,Energy craporations,Army Corps were ALL behind building the failing Oroville dam in California too. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

  • 333m

    I sent in comments after reviewing the whole EIS submittal telling FERC about being totally incomplete and containing numerous errors. PA. DEP is way out of bounds in indicating any type of approvals. Beside all of that, you can’t trust anything Pat Kornick tells you.

  • Nicholas Homyak

    They need to give strict scrutiny to a re-examination of the permits science based reasons and to the integrity of those PDEP who approved it. Jobs like this are dead ends short term employment with long term negative impacts for US all. Were making our Nation ugly through corporate power/corruption..

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