Monday, February 18, 2013

Countdown to Stop a Pipeline 10 – Pipeline Company Rushes in to Cut the Forest – Citizens Stand in Protest

Less than 24 hours after FERC approval was granted for tree clearing of “Pipeline Loop 323” that would cut through the Delaware River Watershed, Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) chainsaw crews, arriving in trucks with Wisconsin license plates, began invading the forests and cutting thousands of 70-year old trees to make way for the Northeast Upgrade Pipeline project (NEUP).  The NEUP is being constructed to carry fracked shale gas from drilling zones in Pennsylvania across into New Jersey and on to other markets. 

TGP clearly rushed its tree clearing plans in order to avoid any possibility that they might be stopped by the efforts of citizens to get the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to step in and require a DRBC review and docket before the project could proceed within the boundaries of our watershed.
Why would TGP be so fearful? 

The past two weeks the Delaware Riverkeeper Network along with a rising tide of concerned citizens have been demanding their intervention and we are on solid legal and moral footing when doing so.

The DRBC Rules of Practice and Procedure require DRBC review and docketing for pipeline projects that “pass in, on, under or across an existing or proposed reservoir or recreation project area as designated in the Comprehensive Plan.”  The NEUP is one such pipeline project -- it passes through the Delaware State Forest and High Point State Park, both Comprehensive Plan areas.  Therefore DRBC's obligation to conduct a review that considers impacts on water resources is clear, and mandatory.  

DRBC has acknowledged its failure to apply this element of the Rules of Practice and Procedure (i.e. with regards to the passage of pipelines through Comprehensive Plan areas) for two other upriver pipeline projects — namely the TGP 300 Line (of which the NEUP is a part) and the 1278 Columbia Line.  

In a letter dated January 30, 2013, DRBC recognized its failure to apply this Comprehensive Plan provision to those two projects.  Its remedy is to apply an after-the-fact review and docket for the projects.  But I and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network have made it clear, this review must be applied to the NEUP as well—a review that does not have to be after-the-fact but can happen now before the pipeline is installed. 

The review that led to DRBC’s revelation of its legal error began well after DRBC refused such review of the 300 Line, the 1278 Line and the NEUP, and so it clearly applies equally to all three. (To see the DRBC Jan 30 letter and my immediate response:

In addition, DRBC's decision to review the TGP 300 Line necessarily applies to the NEUP because the NEUP is a part of that project – the NEUP does not stand alone here. 

In two letters, the DRBC has attempted to say it has performed its legal obligations on the NEUP because it issued a water withdrawal docket for the project in July, 2012.  While a water withdrawal docket was approved by the DRBC for the NEUP, the passage of that water withdrawal docket does not displace the DRBC’s legal obligation to review the many aspects of a project that invades Comprehensive Plan areas.   This would be like a state agency saying that because they issued a wetlands-fill permit for a project they don’t also have to permit it for discharging massive amounts of pollution to the air – they are different issues required by different parts of the agency’s laws and so fulfilling one doesn’t get the agency off the hook for fulfilling the other.

And there is a very easy path for the DRBC to remedy all this as it applies to the NEUP.  There are two provisions in that July 2012 water withdrawal docket it issued for the NEUP which allow it to re-open the permit to fix things when necessary, including when they have made a mistake or get new information that demonstrates a project will harm the water resources of our watershed and communities. 
Ø  Under one of these provisions the DRBC “reserves the right to amend, alter or rescind any actions taken hereunder in order to insure proper control, use and management of the water resources of the Basin.” 
Ø  Under the other provision, “The Executive Director may modify or suspend this approval or any condition thereof, or require mitigating measures pending additional review, if in the Executive Director’s judgment such modification or suspension is required to protect the water resources of the Basin.”

The water resources of the Delaware River Basin are clearly suffering here – and will suffer dramatic and unnecessary harm if the DRBC does not step in and exercise its legal authority to do all it can to avoid such harm – and there is a lot it can do. 

Citizens and organizations from around the region are joining us in our call for the DRBC to act.  Please send your email to the DRBC and all its Commissioners today.

March 6 is their next meeting where the DRBC Commissioners can instruct the Executive Director, Carol Collier, to intervene if she cannot find the courage to do so on her on.  So please plan to take a day from your life to join us on March 6, the day the DRBC will have the chance to begin to make this right.  We won’t be able to get the 70-year old trees and the fully healthy forest back, but there is a lot that can be done to avoid more harm and to fix the damage already inflicted.

And please know, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and our colleagues including the NJ Highlands Coalition and the NJ Sierra Club, continue to press the legal actions we have in the works to find some protection from this project, and to set strong precedent for all future pipeline projects here and across the nation.

An outdoor rally was held on February 18 in Montague, NJ where an 87-year old resident is anguished by the destruction inflicted by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company who took his land through eminent domain.  See video interview here:

And take a look at the release put out by citizens working to blockade the pipeline: and to see what else might be in the works.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pipeline On the Move - One Last Chance to Stop the Chainsaws -- Countdown Blog #9

Despite setbacks this week, there is still hope for the forests, trout streams and privately protected woodlands to keep standing and stay healthy while our legal challenges and other battles against the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company's Northeast Upgrade Pipeline Project (TGP NEUP) wage on.

But We Need Your Voice and Those of your Friends to Stop the Chainsaws

This has been a tough week for legal battles that were aimed at halting Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company's (TGP) chainsaws from beginning cutting through beautiful pristine elder forests, heating up pristine trout-loving streams and scarring the private lands that so many have worked so hard to protect.  But it is still not too late.  So before I tell the legal story – please take a moment now to:

  1. Pick up the phone and make 2 important phone calls to DRBC (609-883-9500 ext 0 or ext 200) and the Army Corps (215-656-6502) to tell them “reopen the DRBC NEUP docket and stop the project while you do the necessary review”. 
  2. Then write an email with a click here: .
  3. Visit our Facebook page to share the news and urge others to act. 
These 3 actions will take less than 10 minutes of your family’s precious time but could make the world of difference for some of the cleanest habitats of the Delaware River watershed that we want to protect for our young ones. 

Back to the legal jungle that has unfolded - We began the week with a decision by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) acknowledging that they were wrong when DRBC rejected the many requests that it review the Tennessee Gas 300 Pipeline project and Columbia 1278 pipeline project before they were installed.  Acknowledging this grave mistake, the DRBC made the decision to go back and review those projects in the context of granting them a docket.  This gives us a chance to secure needed restoration of as much of the devastation done by these pipeline projects as possible.  That was the good news.  (To learn more:

But the DRBC then proceeded to reject multiple requests to recognize that the same error that was made for the TGP 300 pipeline and 1278 Columbia pipeline was also made with regards to the TGP NEUP.  Turning around this wrongheaded position is where your phone calls, emails and faxes to DRBC and Army Corps are now critical.  So please, take the three actions i began with to demand that the DRBC revisit the TGP NEUP docket it issued and take a look at the devastating issues a cut through the Upper Delaware recreational and other lands will cause.  Our action alert at:  provides all the details. 

And remember, the Army Corps has an important position on the DRBC, representing the voice of the President.  They need to know that we want the President’s vote on the DRBC to represent the people, not the gas drillers and pipeline industry.  They need to use their position with the DRBC to urge the reopening of the DRBC docket. 

(For the details of the back and forth letters this week between Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the DRBC

This week also Judge Mariani, a federal district judge in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, issued an order granting TGP’s request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) from reviewing challenges brought by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Responsible Drilling Alliance to three state permits that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued to the TGP NEUP.  While we can still press our challenge to the Pennsylvania-issued permits for the NEUP, we now have to initiate that legal action in federal court as opposed to state court -- that means starting our legal action anew.

     That federal court decision was quickly followed up by  an order issued by another federal court, this time the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, denying the emergency motion for stay filed by Delaware Riverkeeper Network, New Jersey Highlands Coalition, and the NJ Sierra Club, to enjoin the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s order allowing construction to proceed on the NEUP while we challenge the FERC decisions that are allowing the project to move forward. The Court’s order stated only that “Petitioners have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.” 

It is excruciatingly disappointing that the federal courts have rewarded the gamesmanship of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the TGP by denying our efforts to keep the chainsaws from cutting and put the project on hold until the legal challenges which have been legitimately brought can be seen to completion.  It is clear to me that FERC, the Pennsylvania DEP, the DRBC and TGP have avoided, violated and undermined the state and federal laws that should be protecting us from the harms of the TGP NEUP and other pipeline projects.  The agencies are supposed to protect and serve the public and the environment; but it seems that at every turn they are protecting and serving the pipeline companies and gas drillers to only exacerbate the drilling frenzy devastating our neighbors to the west living in industrial zones and seeing their public lands cut down for the shale gas drillers.  

TGP has now asked FERC that by February 11 it give the permission TGP needs to begin tree felling in the Delaware River Watershed for the project.  This means the DRBC still has time to act and the Army Corps can help pressure and do the right thing too.  Please make your voices  heard now to the DRBC and its Commissioners who may be listening.  

DRBC has acted before in the 11th hour, last time to stop shale gas development in our watershed.   With your voice, we could make that happen again, this time for this critical pipeline.  

To learn how to email, fax and phone call now visit our action center and write an email to all commissioners with a few clicks

And please stay tuned to learn of more you can do if they don’t listen to our voices.  We thank you for collectively being the voice of the forests, fish and streams that are in the path of the chainsaws.  Your voice matters now more than ever.  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Turns and Twists This Week Fighting the TGP NEUP Pipeline -- Countdown #8

This week the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, joined by NJ Highlands Coalition and NJ Sierra, filed the additional briefs necessary to pursue our request for an injunction from the Federal Court to stop the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s (TGP) Northeast Upgrade Project (the “NEUP”) while we continue our legal battles.  We were pleased this week to be joined by George C. Feighner in our legal challenge and request for injunction.  Mr. Feighner and his wife will be directly damaged if the NEUP is allowed to go through. 

According to his affidavit filed with the court, Mr. Feighner, now 87, and his wife “live in an historic house in the woods, much of which TGP proposes to clear-cut. Our lot is six acres. … [T]he edge of that forest is 60 feet from my back door. This is where TGP proposes to begin clear-cutting -- practically on my back doorstep. We chose this home for its seclusion and for the beauty of the forest surrounding it.” 

Clearly Mr. Feighner’s peace and that beauty he so cherishes is going to be destroyed if TGP is allowed to cut its way through for the NEUP. As will the beauty and safety of the Upper Delaware region TGP proposes to slash through.

This week there is no tree felling proposed, but we need that injunction to keep it that way.

Joe Zenes with Delaware Riverkeeper Network testifying
before DRBC about the NEUP
In a new turn of events, in response to documents filed by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and supported by 52 other organizations, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) admitted they got it wrong on two pipelines – that they should have exercised their jurisdiction and review over the Columbia 1278 pipeline project and the TGP 300 Line.  The error, they say in a letter written to me by the Executive Director Carol Collier, was their failure to recognize that these two projects cut through the Delaware State Forest, a recreation area included in the DRBC’s Comprehensive Plan. 

Shockingly, despite that the NEUP also cuts through this same forest, and that the DRBC failure to review the project also occurred at a time when they didn’t realize the Delaware State Forest mandated their review, the DRBC is not going to make it right – as of right now they are continuing to deny reviewing the damage of the slash through the forest and beyond. 

We need to stand strong against this denial of justice for the forest, the communities and the River.  We are and we will need your help.