FERC Approves DTE Birdsboro Pipeline and Democracy Dies a Little

It doesn’t come as a suprise that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted the necessary authorizations for the DTE Birdsboro pipeline. It’s always disappointing, but never surprising because the Commission has approved all of the pipeline applications it has ever reviewed, except for one. The list of approved pipeline projects on FERC’s website only goes back 20 of the 30 years it has had oversight of pipeline reviews. Last summer, we found that FERC had approved 450 pipelines. They’ve approved several since and surely many in the ten years not included on the list.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection knew that when it issued the permits that would allow FERC to approve the pipeline. Had the agency rejected the permits, the pipeline would have been stopped.

It’s hard to say if your state legislators knew FERC’s track record when they stood idly by and did nothing to intervene on behalf of their constituents. Save arranging a phone meeting with DEP representatives who were unable to respond to questions about contamination on the site where the pipeline will connect to the power plant, your legislators did nothing.

Neither the DEP nor FERC considered contamination on the site in their respective “environmental” reviews. In its order today, FERC discussed the lawsuit filed by Birdsboro Power LLC that we submitted to the docket in early December. The Commissioners were satisfied that the contamination had been remediated in spite of the fact that the company referred to “significant remaining contamination” and the fact that, 5 days prior to the lawsuit being filed, a worker on the site was overcome when the track loader he was operating punctured one of several chlorine gas canisters buried on the site that were not mentioned in the lawsuit and were likely unknown to the company unless it is in the habit of directing workers to use heavy equipment in areas where they know chlorine gas cannisters are buried.

Questions remain unanswered regarding the level and extent of asbestos contamination on the site, but, apparently, not for the DEP nor FERC. The DEP representatives we spoke with were unaware of the taking down of the stacks on the old Armorcast site that resulted in a violation against the company for failing to submit a required form that specifically addresses asbestos contamination. The company was never fined because they promised they’d never do it again. The DEP never requested a report the company claimed to have and only received three pages of the 31-page report after we asked them for a copy. The three pages indicated that the samples taken did not include any of the brick, but only the mortar and other materials. The DEP admitted that it didn’t know where the debris had been taken, so no further testing is possible. But DEP’s fine with that. Your legislators are fine with that. FERC is fine with that.

The public never got a chance to determine how it feels about it because none of the information we learned after discovering the lawsuit was made available to the public prior to the conclusion of the DEP’s public participation process and was discovered just days before the end of FERC’s.

Of course, there are other reasons to deny pipelines, especially when they will connect to new natural gas power plants being proposed at exactly the time we need to be transitioning off of fossil fuels. And, no, natural gas isn’t a bridge fuel. That myth was busted long ago.

Once again, your government has failed you. That’s why we’re working with others fighting pipelines, infrastructure, fracking, and climate inaction to organize a rally in Harrisburg on Friday, April 13th. We’re calling it We Choose a Better Path, Governor Wolf. When your government dismisses you, ignores you, excludes you, withholds information from you, does its best to criminalize you, and works against your best interests and those of future generations, Democracy has failed.

By the way, I filed a Right-to-Know request the night the DEP issued the remaining permits for the power plant and pipeline. I asked for all information related to contamination on the site, all correspondance on the project involving government offices, and all Notices of Violation filed related to contamination. The DEP has failed to respond within the legally mandated period. Democracy’s dealt another blow.

You can read the order issued today by FERC here:

DTE Approval FERC