By Peter Becker
PIKE COUNTY - The US Army Corps of Engineers has issued a permit to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company to construct the Northeast Upgrade Pipeline Project including the controversial detour section through eastern Pike County.
The notice was dated March 22, 2013. Frank J. Cianfrani, Chief, Regulatory Branch for the US Army Corps of Engineers, stated that based on their evaluation of all pertinent information, they determined that the project complies with applicable Federal regulations and guidelines. He further stated that the project "is not contrary to the general public interest and that the public interest would be best served by approving the proposed work."
He said that permit conditions have been added to the Department of the Army permit to ensure that the impacts associated with the project will be minimal.
The project increases the capacity for transport of natural gas through Bradford, Susquehanna, Wayne and Pike counties, Pennsylvania and Sussex County, New Jersey.
The permit allows wetland, streams, and river crossings in Pennsylvania. Clear-cutting of trees has already occurred on a seven-mile route in eastern Pike County, which was allowed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to avoid Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area- National Park Service lands in Sussex County, where Tennessee has an existing right-of-way.
Issuance of the permit, Cianfrani stated, was done after a full review and in complete consideration of all the comments and recommendations received in response to their Public Notice.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the lead Federal agency for the overall project ad has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) according to the National Environmental Policy Act. The Corps of Engineers was a cooperating agency in preparing the EA. The Public Notice issued by the Army Corps states, "In conclusion of the EA, FERC has determined that the proposed work would not have a significant impact on the human environment and therefore an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has not been prepared."
The 107-page permit authorizes TGP to cross wetlands and water bodies and install the pipeline using Horizontal Directional Drilling under the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers.
In a statement Jolie DeFeis, who has led a citizens' effort to stop the pipeline detour in eastern Pike, said, "It is shocking that it took them nine months to ultimately fall into line with FERC. I was told by David Hanobic at FERC that FERC was only required to review the applicant's route and make sure it was acceptable. This fact was even acknowledged in their May 29, 2012 EA that it was not the best route but it was the most feasible. It is incumbent upon the Army Corps of Engineers to determine the BEST route through their stringent alternatives analysis which we don't believe was ever done. I was told just last week in a phone call with Sam Reynolds at ACOE that Army Corps has a higher standard than FERC in that regard. So it is particularly mind blowing that their permit basically acknowledges that they really didn't look any further as they promised."
She said that letters from Save Cummins Hill group , legal counsel for George Feighner and Delaware Riverkeeper Network stating their objections to the 404 permit were ignored.
DeFeis stressed that the Northeast Upgrade project is not necessary and is detrimental to our local economy and environment.
The Tennessee Pipeline services Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations that use the controversial hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" process, she pointed out.
"The industrialization of our rural landscape by the gas industry is putting the water and air quality of our neighbors and us at risk. The Northeast Upgrade project will give incentive for thousands more gas wells in northeast Pennsylvania. Finally, the entirety of shale gas development, especially the impact of the Tennessee pipeline upgrades since 2011, should be considered cumulatively, not piecemeal, in regard to ecology, public health, and economic factors," said DeFeis.