DRBC: ‘Dock 2’ a go

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 12/9/20

TRISTATE AREA — In the face of opposition from environmental advocates, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted to approve the construction of a liquefied …

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DRBC: ‘Dock 2’ a go

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TRISTATE AREA — In the face of opposition from environmental advocates, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted to approve the construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal in Gibbstown, NJ at its December 9 meeting.

The approval allows limited liability company Delaware River Partners to construct the first natural gas terminal of its kind in New Jersey. Upon completion, the project will allow fracked gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale to be transported to a processing facility on the Susquehanna River and then hauled as liquefied methane to the Gibbstown facility.

The DRBC originally approved the project (sometimes referred to simply as the “Dock 2” project) in June of 2019, but it was challenged by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN), an environmental advocacy group. In September 2020, following an administrative hearing that had produced “voluminous record” and expert testimony, the commission voted to delay any decision regarding the terminal’s construction.

Since then, hearing officer John Kelly, from the PA Department of State Office of Hearing Examiners, produced a report recommending that the commission approve the construction as originally planned. 

The evidence adduced by 13 experts and three fact witnesses in written and live testimony has not demonstrated any substantial impairment or conflict with the Dock 2 project,” Kelly wrote in his conclusion. “[The Riverkeeper Network] had a full and fair opportunity to demonstrate that Dock 2 would substantially impair or conflict with the [DRBC’s] comprehensive plan… DRN took full advantage of that opportunity, thoroughly and ably presenting its arguments and evidence. However, the effort and evidence were insufficient to carry the burden. Accordingly, it is recommended that the Dock 2 docket should remain as previously approved by the commission.”

At the December 9 meeting, New York’s representative Kenneth Kosinski moved to again delay action on the project “until recent concerns regarding water flow impacts have been fully addressed, as well as determining whether the potential implications on climate change this project may have should be evaluated.” However, gaining no second, the motion died.

On a motion to accept the hearing officer’s recommendation and approve construction of the terminal, representatives from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the United States voted yes. Kosinski from New York abstained, calling the approval “premature” given lingering questions about the project’s impacts on water quality and climate change.

New Jersey’s representative Jeff Hoffman acknowledged the wide criticism the project has received but ultimately agreed with Kelly’s conclusion.

“The issue presented to the commission is a narrow one: whether or not to affirm its prior decision that dredging activities related to the construction of a second dock [in Gibbstown] satisfies the commission’s water quality standards,” he said. “New Jersey has thoroughly reviewed the hearing officer’s report [and] concurs with his recommendation.”

Watch the full December 9 meeting here.

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