Contrary to references at public meetings and in the press, some federal elected officials sent letters to federal agencies concerning local opposition to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP)’s Loop 323 project, and asked for a rehearing.
A letter from U.S. Congressman Tom Marino, 10th Congressional District, to the Pike County Commissioners revealed that he and Senator Bob Casey had urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) to reopen hearing on the controversial decision by TGP to dig a 7.1-mile ditch around Milford for a new pipeline segment.
Thus far, the two agencies have not granted a rehearing.
TGP planned the 323 Loop in order to avoid expanding its existing right-of-way from 50 feet to 75 feet through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA) which, the commissioners claim, would be opposed by the National Park Service (NPS).
The TGP plan is being opposed by a group of local residents, called Save Cummins Hill, and the Pike County Commissioners, because of the environmental damage that the opponents say would occur.
At the recent commissioners’ meeting, chairman Rich Caridi bemoaned the fact that the Marino letter seemed to put the blame for the 7.1-mile ditch on the NPS Superintendent John Donahue.
TGP officials have stated that Donahue was opposed to their using the existing right-of-way through the park and, for this reason, made it necessary to cut the ditch through a residential district outside of Milford.
“How can one bureaucrat not elected by anyone have more weight than elected federal officials in causing this problem?” Caridi said.
Since Donahue is away until January 15, attempts were made to reach his superior, Dennis Reidenbach, NPS regional director. A member of Reidenbach’s office, Jane Ahern of the communications and legislative office stated, “NPS does not have the authority to approve a ROW [right of way] or extension on federal land. Congress has retained this authority. TGP could petition Congress and FERC to expand the existing ROW regardless of whether the route was supported by the NPS.”
Caridi expressed even greater outrage when he explained that NPS superintendent of the National Gateway Recreation Area (NGRA) in Brooklyn and Queens, NY allowed a permit for TGP to cut two similar pipelines through that park.
“Why can’t we get a similar permit to cut through the DWGNRA Park and avoid harming our environment?” Caridi asked. “If it could happen there, why not here?”
The Gateway three-mile pipeline would run from the Atlantic Ocean beneath Jacob Riis Park in Rockaway and under the Jamaica Bay to Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Air Field.
“It’s simply outrageous,” Caridi said.
“As you may know, it was stated by Donahue’s boss, Dennis Reidenbach, that NPS was not even approached by TGP to use the existing easement,” said Jolie DeFeis, leader of the Save Cummins Hill group. “We believe that anything other than the NPS route is a sanctioned land grab,” she said.