Pennsylvania

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Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson is the energy and environment reporter for NJ Spotlight. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in reporting and editing at New Jersey newspapers. A veteran reporter for The Newark Star-Ledger, Johnson worked in the Statehouse and in Newark covering energy, environmental and telecommunications issues. Before that he served as editor of the Ridgewood Newspapers and a reporter and editor at the Herald-News. A recipient of many state and national journalism honors, including recognition by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for coverage of the environment, he was a member of the Star-Ledger’s nationally award-winning business section. After leaving the Ledger in early 2009, he served as press secretary to the Daggett Campaign for Governor. He lives in Plainfield, N.J.
 tjohnson@njspotlight.com

  • Email: tjohnson@njspotlight.com

NJ Gubernatorial candidate calls for fracking ban in Delaware River Basin

A natural gas rig in Washington, Pa. New Jersey's gubernatorial candidate Murphy has called for a fracking ban along the Delaware River.

AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam

(File photo) A natural gas rig in Washington, Pa. New Jersey's gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy has called for a fracking ban along the Delaware River. If he wins, it could tip the balance at the DRBC.

In an announcement with significant implications, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy has called for a permanent ban on fracking within the Delaware River Basin.

Murphy’s endorsement of a permanent ban on the technology used to drill for natural gas came on a day when conservation and environmental groups once again urged the Delaware River Basin Commission to make a moratorium on fracking permanent.

Murphy’s position also is a reversal of that taken by Gov. Chris Christie during his  two terms and could swing the majority of the five-member commission to support a permanent ban if the Democratic candidate wins this November’s election for governor of New Jersey.

The commission has established, in effect, a moratorium on fracking within the basin since 2010, when it prohibited permitting for natural-gas drilling to allow it to study its impact on water resources. The Delaware River Basin provides drinking water to 15 million people in the region.

This story comes to us from our reporting partner NJ Spotlight, for more please visit their website.

PennEast files for NJ water permits as FERC deadline looms

Kimberly Paynter/Newsworks

Kimberly Paynter / Newsworks

Construction on a pipeline path in Susquehanna County. The PennEast pipeline would run 118-miles from Northeast Pennsylvania to New Jersey. FERC is expected to release its final environmental impact statement on Friday.

This article comes from our partner NJ Spotlight.

The developer of the PennEast pipeline today filed for a critical water and freshwater wetlands permit from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for its project, perhaps one of the most troublesome regulatory reviews remaining for the planned pipeline.

In filing the application, PennEast Pipeline Co. is seeking approval for the same permit that ended up killing a controversial pipeline project in New York when it was denied. Environmentalists here are hoping to convince the Christie administration to do likewise, effectively blocking the 118-mile PennEast pipeline that would run from Luzerne County in Northeast Pennsylvania to Mercer County, NJ.

The permit review promises to be difficult given the route of the $2 billion project — crossing more than 200 waterways, including underneath the Delaware River.

New Jersey is one of only two states allowed to administer the federal 401 Water Quality Certificate program under the federal Clean Water Act. The state DEP oversees the latter with its own New Jersey freshwater wetlands permit program. Read more from NJ Spotlight.

PSEG Power could pull out of PennEast pipeline project

In this April 17, 2014 photo, workers construct a gas pipeline in Harmony, Pa.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

In this April 17, 2014 photo, workers construct a gas pipeline in Harmony, Pa. In a new development over the planned PennEast pipeline in the eastern part of the state, PSEG Power may sell its share.

This story is from our partner NJ Spotlight.

PSEG Power is exploring a sale of its share of the PennEast pipeline, a 118-mile project that has stirred widespread opposition in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania and encountered numerous regulatory setbacks.

A spokesman for the Newark company acknowledged the discussions, saying it is considering sale of its share—believed to be in excess of $100 million—but said it will continue to be a customer of the pipeline when it is built.

“We’ve decided to focus on our core business—managing and running a diverse fleet of power plants and construction of three new combined cycle (natural gas) plants,’’ said Michael Jennings.

But news of the decision elated opponents of the project, who have battled the proposal at the local, state and federal levels every step of the way, delaying regulatory and permit approvals in numerous cases.

“It’s New Jersey’s largest utility; if they are having doubts about the project, it is not a positive development,’’ said Tom Gilbert, campaign director  of Rethink New Jersey, a vocal foe of the proposal. “It is more evidence that the pipeline is in trouble.’’ Continue Reading

New Jersey agencies and EPA add critiques to PennEast pipeline project

Roy Christman (left) and William Kellner outside a FERC meeting on the proposed PennEast pipeline where they displayed a banner objecting to the possible use of eminent domain by pipeline companies to enable construction on private land.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

Roy Christman (left) and William Kellner outside a FERC meeting on the proposed PennEast pipeline where they displayed a banner objecting to the possible use of eminent domain by pipeline companies to enable construction on private land.

From our partners at NJ Spotlight:

Several government agencies have questioned the need for and significant aspects of the PennEast project, a new 118-mile natural-gas pipeline already facing wide opposition from residents of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The proposed pipeline would bring Marcellus Shale gas from Northeast Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River, to supply New Jersey utilities.

The comments from state and federal agencies repeatedly decry a significant lack of information and unanswered questions raised by the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) earlier this summer.

The response by the government agencies could trigger new delays in the $1.1 billion project, one of more than a dozen pipelines that have been proposed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey since cheap natural-gas supplies have been exploited in Pennsylvania and neighboring states. The new wells have driven down heating costs for consumers and manufacturing costs for businesses. Read more at NJ Spotlight.

Continue Reading

PSEG files with FERC to stop pipeline project

In this April 17, 2014 photo, workers continue the construction at a gas pipeline site in Harmony, Pa.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

In this April 17, 2014 photo, workers continue the construction at a gas pipeline site in Harmony, Pa.

From NJ Spotlight

Public Service Enterprise Group, New Jersey’s largest electricity supplier, is trying to block a plan to expand a natural-gas pipeline in New England, arguing it will unreasonably suppress prices in the electricity market there.

In a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, PSEG companies contend that the move, initiated by four states in the region, is not driven by reliability needs and that the gas would be rarely used by the utilities that would own the pipeline.

“It’s purely a scheme to suppress wholesale power prices,’’ the company argued in a filing with the federal agency last month. The case is “virtually indistinguishable’’ from a previous case before FERC involving New Jersey’s efforts to subsidize new power plant construction in the state, an effort struck down by both the agency and the U.S. Supreme Court, the filing said.

The filing, however, caught the interest of critics of the proposed PennEast pipeline, a 118-mile conduit from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. They argue that PSEG advances many of the same arguments opponents have made about that proposal, including supplying pipeline capacity far in excess of what is demanded by the marketplace. Continue reading at NJ Spotlight.

Environmentalists challenge grid operator’s new ‘reliability’ regulation

PPL's Brunner Island three-unit coal-fired plant located on the west bank of the Susquehanna River. A bill recently approved by the state House and Senate would give legislators more time to review Pennsylvania's compliance with federal climate regulations.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

PPL's Brunner Island three-unit coal-fired plant located on the west bank of the Susquehanna River.

via NJ Spotlight

A new rule designed to promote reliability of the power grid is being challenged by a quartet of interest groups saying it increases prices to consumers and hinders clean-energy alternatives.The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, and the Union of Concerned Scientists filed a lawsuit Friday challenging a federal agency’s approval of the new regulation adopted by the operator of the nation’s largest power grid, PJM Interconnection.

The regulation provides power suppliers with more lucrative payments if they agree to provide electricity at times when it may be needed because of high demand, but slams them with stiff penalties if they fail to deliver when called upon.

The controversial regulation was adopted by PJM in the wake of an unusually bitter cold snap in the winter of 2014, when many suppliers were unable to supply power, straining the reliability of the grid. New Jersey officials were not happy with the rule, fearing it could spike prices to consumers. Continue reading at NJ Spotlight.

About 1400 parties seek to intervene in PennEast pipeline case

A sign protesting the PennEast pipeline along a road in Durham Township, Bucks County.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A sign protesting the PennEast pipeline along a road in Durham Township, Bucks County.

From NJ Spotlight

In a sign of the widespread opposition the project faces, more than 1,440 property owners, government agencies, and interest groups are seeking to intervene in the proposed PennEast pipeline case before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The 118-mile natural-gas pipeline beginning in Luzerne County in Pennsylvania, crossing the Delaware River into Hunterdon County and ending in Mercer County is perhaps the most contentious of at least a dozen similar projects proposed in New Jersey.

Intervener status would allow parties to present evidence as to why the $1.1 billion project should be approved or rejected and to appeal in federal court if they oppose the FERC decision. It is up to the agency to grant intervener status to those requesting it.

Besides the opposition, about a dozen or so utilities and other companies have sought to intervene in the case, according to Patricia Kornick, a spokeswoman for PennEast Pipeline Company LLC. Continue reading at NJ Spotlight.

PennEast Pipeline surveyors blocked from mapping land in New Jersey

via NJ Spotlight

The proposed alternate route of the PennEast pipeline. Click to enlarge the image.

Courtesy of PennEast Pipeline Company

The proposed alternate route of the PennEast pipeline. Click to enlarge the image.

Mercer County is joining the list of landowners trying to block PennEast Pipeline LLC from surveying property — part of a county park — in order to build a highly contentious natural gas pipeline.

The county, which has opposed the project since last year, told PennEast yesterday that the company would no longer have access to the park in Titusville for the purpose of surveying the property to facilitate the project. The county cited soil borings on Baldpate Mountain, which it has deemed as potentially environmentally harmful.

The notification follows an announcement by the state Department of Environmental Protection earlier this month, advising the company not to apply for permits needed for the project, since private landowners refused to give it access to survey their properties.

Thirty-two miles of the $1 billion proposed pipeline would run through four communities in Hunterdon County, before ending in Hopewell in Mercer County. The rest of the 110-mile pipeline crosses land in Pennsylvania.

In New Jersey, much of the proposed route — about 3,000 acres, critics say — would run through preserved open space, farmland, and wetlands, as well as cross numerous waterways. Continue Reading

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