February 24, 2019
Dominic Rocco, PE, Program Manager
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Regional Permit Coordination Office
Rachel Carson Office Building, 10th Flr.
400 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
Re: PennEast Pipeline permits E40-780, E13-185, E48-435, E09-998, and ESG02000160001
Berks Gas Truth submits these comments on behalf of its members and in support of the affected communities with whom it works.
The review and comment period for the permits referenced above were announced in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, 49 Pa.B. 713, February 16, 2019. The notice is dated February 15, 2019 and indicates that comments will be accepted for 30 days.
At present, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is accepting comments until March 8 for proposed rerouting of the PennEast pipeline. It is unlikely that FERC will review all of the comments received and announce to the public any determination on the proposed changes before your comment period ends. Therefore, the public is not afforded the opportunity to comment on water obstructions and encroachments nor erosion and sedimentation concerns on what may become the approved route of the PennEast pipeline. Further, because the system of notifying the public of opportunities to comment is so thoroughly inadequate at the federal level, it is likely that some commenters who respond to this notice will not be aware of the proposed changes and will submit comments that are incomplete or no longer relevant when FERC makes its determination. And because notification is similarly inadequate at the state level, it’s likely that interested parties will not know about this opportunity to comment at all.
None of this should be happening, of course. Our overarching comment is that the scientific community has made it abundantly clear that we have 12 years to address climate change. Pipelines are built to last far longer than we can afford to be using the natural gas that would run through them. Your primary responsibility in matters such as this as a regulatory agency in existence to serve the best interests of the public and the environment is to make sure no more pipelines are built. Failure to do so should be considered a crime against humanity.
As it isn’t, there are other reasons to halt the current permitting process having to do with the conflicting deadlines detailed above. Your agency has little authority over federally-regulated pipelines. The only power you have to protect the public is in your ability to reject permits on the basis of impacts to water that are always present and always unacceptable. When you prematurely issue permits, as is so often the case, you cede your authority over any future changes made to the pipeline’s route. In this case, you are considering approving permits knowing that route changes could be coming. It’s not a hypothetical. That is unacceptable.
We call on you to reject PennEast’s request for permits for the sake of future generations. Should you fail to do that, we call on you, at minimum to halt the current review until FERC’s decision of the proposed route changes is known and resulting impacts to water are identified. At that point, we further call on you to make a more robust effort of notifying the public of its opportunity to comment and establish a comment period of a longer duration, at least sixty days, that further ensures that as many interested parties as possible know about the comment period and have time to study and respond to the permit applications.
Karen Feridun, Founder
Berks Gas Truth