News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Federal court: approval wrong for NEUP Pipeline Project

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  • WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a decisionissued June 6, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, ruled that the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the NJ Sierra Club and New Jersey Highlands Coalition were correct in their legal challenge to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s Northeast Upgrade Project and ordered additional analysis and review.
    ••• Court's opnion
    The Court stated:
    “On the record before us, we hold that in conducting its environmental review of the Northeast
    Project without considering the other connected, closely related, and interdependent projects on
    the Eastern Leg, FERC impermissibly segmented the environmental review in violation of NEPA.
    We also find that FERC’s EA is deficient in its failure to include any meaningful analysis of the
    cumulative impacts of the upgrade projects. We therefore grant the petition for review and
    remand the case to the Commission for further consideration of segmentation and cumulative
    “On the record before us, we find that FERC acted arbitrarily in deciding to evaluate the
    environment effects of the Northeast Project independent of the other connected action on the
    Eastern Leg.”
    In May 2012 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company authorizing construction and operation of its Northeast Upgrade Project. Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the NJ Sierra Club and New Jersey
    Highlands Coalition argued that the approval was inappropriate because FERC had illegally segmented its environmental review of the Northeast Project by failing to consider three other connected and
    interdependent projects – the 300 Line Project, the Northeast Supply Diversification Project, the MPP
    Project – and by failing to provide a meaningful analysis of the cumulative impacts of the projects.
    ••• Reaction
    Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper said about the decision: “This is important vindication of
    the rights of our communities and environment to be honestly considered and protected by our federal
    agencies. FERC has been allowing illegal segmentation by pipeline companies for years, it has ignored
    the pleas of the public for equity and for honest review of impacts, and as such FERC has been complicit with the pipeline companies in their ongoing efforts to avoid the rule of law and to ignore the
    devastating impacts they are having on our environment, impacts that will harm not just present, but
    also future generations. It is rewarding that a federal court has finally held FERC to account.”
    The case was argued before the Court of Appeals by Delaware Riverkeeper Network attorney Aaron
    Stemplewicz. Said Stemplewicz of the decision, “The D.C. Circuit’s decision today should put other
    Page 2 of 2 - pipeline companies on notice that the practice of segmenting pipeline projects before the Federal
    Energy Regulatory Commission will no longer be tolerated, and that the cumulative environmental
    impacts resulting from these projects must be fully considered before a project is approved.”
    “This is a victory for clean water and environmental regulation over a fossil fuel pipeline. This is the first time the Court sided with the environment over a gas company but more importantly it sends a clear message to FERC that they cannot ignore the environment. We see this as a critically important
    precedent that will now require FERC to look at the real environmental issues of the projects they
    review,” said Jeff Tittel, Director, New Jersey Sierra Club.
    Added Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum: “This decision is important and powerful for every
    pipeline, related infrastructure and LNG project to come, but sadly for the communities, forests,
    streams, wetlands and critters impacted by the four projects at issue here, the decision comes too late to ensure their full consideration and protection. We will be able to press for important mitigation and
    efforts to undo the harms already inflicted, but as for avoiding the full array of harms, that is now
    impossible. FERC needed to do its job when it had the opportunity – but they were too busy servicing
    the gas pipeline companies to care.”
    "While it is too late to save Cummins Hill," said Jole DeFeis of Pike County, "we hope that this decision will set precedent for future communities fighting injustices of the gas giants. And should be used as motivation for us to rise up against the current Columbia Gas Compressor Station Expansion project -another wrongful FERC led project -set to destroy another beautiful community and pollute our air, soil and water. "
    DeFeis led a citizen effort protesting a detour of the pipeline route in eastern Pike County which crossed a residential area on Cummins Hill east of Milford.
    Of particular note – all three justices ruling on this case concurred on the final judgment rendered.
    Case is titled Delaware Riverkeeper Network, et. al. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Decided June 6, 2014.
    Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s Northeast Upgrade Project (NEUP) is an interstate transmission
    line upgrade project. The project included pipeline drilling activities under the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers, significant new grading and clearing of previously undisturbed forested land and steep slopes, 90 stream crossings, 136 wetland crossings, and 450 acres of land development within the Delaware River watershed alone. Highpoint State Park and Delaware State Forest are among the public lands that have been damaged by the project.
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