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Pike commissioners seek help from DC law firm; Commissioners say an EIS is needed

July 3, 2012

The Pike County Commissioners aren’t giving up. They’ve enlisted a high-powered law firm from Washington, DC. whose principal focus is dealing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“The firm is willing to work out a deal with us to pay less than their daily fee because we have a track record of working with them in the past,” said Tom Farley, solicitor of the Pike commissioners. The name of the firm is GKRSE and the principal attorney is Nancy Skancke.

Their usual fee is $450 an hour. In order for the county to afford them, they will put an assistant on the case but
promised to monitor the assistant’s progress.

At issue is the Tennessee Gas Company’s decision to bypass the utilization of an easement that it possesses through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area (DWGNRA), and instead cut a 6.1-mile loop around the Borough of Milford. The loop will affect about 10 properties.

The company never asked for a permit to go through the park but, after informal discussions with the superintendent John Donahue of the National Park Service (NPS) which operates the DWGNRA, the company unilaterally decided to avoid anticipated problems with Donahue, who has stated NPS’s opposition to a move that would widen the right-of-way easement, insisting that an act of Congress would be needed to allow it.

Donahue has said that his job is to protect the park from encroachments on its property. He also has stated that, while he supports that policy, the decision is not his but is the domain of the Department of the Interior under which agency the NPS operates.

“We feel we have a good case against Tennessee,” said Rich Caridi, chairman of the commissioners. “We and many others feel that there should have been a full-blown Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to investigate the impacts of this enormous project, which are considerable, and not just hold an environmental assessment (EA).

“We are asking that they stay the order and initiate a new permit process,” he said. “We are, in effect, seeking an appeal.”

Interveners have 30 days to attempt to stay the approval process. The commissioners also asked if they could have the status of interveners—ones who have a valid right to question a FERC decision.

Caridi and his fellow commissioners have instigated a campaign against the loop by writing numerous letters to elected officials U.S. Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey, U.S. Representative Tom Marino, PA Senator Lisa Baker and PA Representative Mike Peifer.

Caridi said on June 27, “So far we have not heard from any of them.”