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January 29, 2015
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Elected officials mute on PA pipeline

Rick Caridi, chairman of the Pike County Commissioners, is disappointed. Efforts to get elected officials to ask two federal agencies to reopen hearings on a controversial gas pipeline project have proven futile. So far no officials have written letters.

“I am surprised and disappointed that none of our officials have responded yet,” he said.

The Pike County Commissioners are asking that the officials send letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) to reopen hearings on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s (TGP) Northeast Upgrade Project (NEUP) project.

The opponents of the line’s 7.1-mile trench around Milford who are supporting the commissioners are the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the New Jersey Highlands Coalition and the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. Some of the opponents are saying that the company should use its existing right-of-way that passes through the Delaware Water Gap Recreational and National Area, which is controlled by the National Park Service (NPS).

Others, however, take a stricter view, and charge that TGP is being allowed to construct the line in violation of the law.

“The law requires that the company put forth the whole project, not just a piece of it,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. But, she said, the company is being allowed to “segment” the project. “Also, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) should exercise their jurisdiction over this project and all of the others that are being proposed for the river watershed. They are all extremely damaging and the DRBC is not doing anything.”

Van Rossum claims that there are 13 new expansion projects proposed to go through the Delaware River Watershed in the coming years. “We can’t allow this precedent to happen with this TGP project,” she said. “The Water Gap is public land for the benefit of all the people.”

Van Rossum said that her organization would be against any further use by the TGP of its right-off-way through the Delaware Water Gap.

Due to its federal regulations, the National Park Service says that it cannot allow the company to extend its right-of-way from the existing 50 feet to 75 feet, which the company is requesting.

“It’s just an example of sheer greed; the 50 foot right-of-way is sufficient,” said Jolie DeFeis, a leader of a local opposition group called Save Cummins Hill. “People like Vince Vitale, who is an industry expert, says it’s not necessary.”
The environmental groups claim that TGP does not have the necessary state and federal permits to do the work, which was slated to begin on November 12.

Even though FERC approved the NEUP project at the end of May, the three groups are challenging the approval, and have requested a rehearing. They are represented by the Columbia Environmental Law Clinic.

In a letter to FERC, the group said that any construction that takes place before all required permits are issued would violate conditions set down by the federal commission and the permitting regimes of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Richard Pearsall, community relations coordinator for ACE, said that the corps has a lot on its plate with the hurricane’s aftermath, but also stated that the agency would reexamine the question in the near future and respond to inquiries.

“We want to ensure the Milford, PA community understands that Tennessee Gas’s path of destruction will affect all of us, not just those living along the pipeline route,” DeFeis said. “We believe many people have been uninformed or misinformed.”