Wednesday, March 27, 2013

For Your Reading Torture: The Army Corps of Engineers Permit

Our protest 2/26/2013, Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia HQ
by Alex Lotorto

On Monday, March 25, in a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. stated that they had received all required federal permits, including those needed from the Obama administration's Army Corps of Engineers for wetland, streams, and river crossings in Pennsylvania.

After clear cutting was complete, TGP was forced to leave the trees laying in Pennsylvania because they had not received this permit. Now, heavy equipment can move in to construct Loops 317, 319, 321, and 323. Tree removal and trenching Loop 325 in Bergen and Passaic Counties is already underway. New Jersey wetland jurisdiction is within their state's Department of Environmental Protection and those permits have already been issued.

Permit Cover Page, Click to Enlarge
On Monday, Cummins Hill Rd. resident Jolie DeFeis reviewed the attachments in the electronic FERC submission and found this document, the Clean Water Act Section 404 permit that was issued on March 22 without public notice. 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.

A comment and response document has not been provided to those who made public comment on the permit, and we have many unanswered concerns.

Linda Klee, a grandmother on Cummins Hill Rd., wrote to the ACOE, "Your agency ignored every fact and every piece of evidence, pictures and video, present and past that was sent to you showing damage to wetlands and streams occurring and that had occurred, and numerous violations by Tennessee Gas on Loop 323 and the 300 line. No Environmental Impact Study was ever done. There is an island in the middle of the Delaware River in a flood zone home to numerous migratory birds that will be impacted. Well, that is just great work Army Corps! Great Job! As a retired military family we will not salute you!"

We are outraged by the ACOE's decision, but unfortunately not surprised. In his State of the Union address, President Obama stated that he would "cut the red tape for oil and gas" and this permit is the Obama administration doing exactly that at the expense of our Pennsylvania and New Jersey communities.

Our objections include, but are not limited to...

The Army Corps of Engineers is required to weigh the costs, benefits, and necessity of the Northeast Upgrade for the public interest, for which there isn't any benefit or need.

Over and over again, from dozens of angles, Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents have shown that the Northeast Upgrade project is not necessary and is detrimental to our local economy and environment.

Bradford County Marcellus Activity Map, October 2012
The Tennessee Pipeline services Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations that use the controversial hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" process. 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.

Full Report Available Here
Traditional housing, tourism, and recreation economies will be displaced as the landscape becomes industrialized with more natural gas infrastructure. It is a trade off that the Endless Mountains, Poconos, and New Jersey Highlands regions can't afford. The temporary and volatile market for natural gas is not a good investment for job security in our workforce, it is not a permanent source of employment, and drilling and well services jobs are some of the most dangerous in the country. Our economic future should not be determined for us as if we're a colony of Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City, or Harrisburg.
From the Energy Information Administration, Click to Enlarge

The Tennessee Pipeline already delivers gas via the existing 24" pipeline installed in the 1950s and no additional volume is needed to supply commercial or residential heating. The only significant new end use in the last decade requiring methane gas is for natural gas-fired power plants, the need for which can be displaced by energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy like wind and solar. Industrial heating through focused solar and electric, commercial transportation through electric and hydrogen fuel cells, and residential heating options using solar and geothermal technology could lower the need for natural gas even further or completely.

Is this gas for export? We don't know. According to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filings by Tennessee, one of two customers for the gas is Statoil, a Norwegian company. Statoil's Chief Financial Officer Torgrim Reitan stated earlier this month, "[Liquefied Natural Gas] export is a viable route and I will encourage the current administration to look at that."

In January, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Kinder Morgan Inc. (owner of the Tennessee Pipeline) announced their intention to form a company to export liquefied natural gas from a site in Georgia, the latest of more than 20 export terminals seeking to ship U.S gas overseas.

"This project will facilitate further development of the abundant natural gas resources in the United States and will be a positive factor in the overall balance of trade between the U.S. and other countries," said Kinder Morgan Chief Executive Richard Kinder in a statement.

As we've previously written, pipeline baron Richard Kinder is the former President of Enron and Kinder Morgan is now the the third largest energy company in the US.

TGP is a Bad Actor with Standing Violations Since 2011
Greg Lotorto said it best at the last Delaware River Basin Commission hearing, rewarding a dog that poops on the rug is not how most of us train our canines. Unfortunately, the Army Corps of Engineers hasn't learned. Here are hundreds of pages of violations paperwork issued by the Pike County Conservation District, which enforces state erosion and sediment regulation, since TGP began the Northeast Upgrade project in 2011 with their even numbered loops. There is plenty of evidence of what we can expect from TGP this time around. Also included are field observations of violations made by Delaware Riverkeeper Network volunteers and staff in 2013.

Erosion and Sediment controls still not effective since 2011
Here is a great example of the standing wetland violation of Craft Brook, an Exceptional Value stream in our Delaware State Forest, the first brook headed west from where TGP will begin work dredging (Gifford) Pinchot Brook's headwaters. It is a letter sent to the ACOE from Delaware Riverkeeper Network on March 12, 2013.

What do you think staff at the Philadelphia ACOE office did with the hard copy?

TGP's Horizonatal Directional Drilling (HDD) River Crossings Have Not Been Proven Safe
There have not been core samples of either the Delaware or Susquehanna riverbeds to show overburden bedrock that can contain high pressure drilling muds used in the HDD process. This endangers the river and aquifer that is used by the Delaware Valley School District main campus and millions downstream. Without core samples revealing bedrock where HDD is planned, the Army Corps of Engineers could not have made a proper decision. We would like to know if the geology was considered.

Third spill at pipeline site sullies Susquehanna County creek (August 10, 2011)

A third spill muddied a high value Susquehanna County stream on Monday, the day state regulators allowed construction of a major natural gas pipeline to resume after two spills in five days halted the operation.

Drilling mud - a mixture of bentonite clay and water - erupted through natural weaknesses in rock and soil as subcontractors for Laser Northeast Gathering Co. were boring a path for the pipeline under Laurel Lake Creek on July 29, Aug. 2 and Monday.


Drilling blowout in Back Mountain (May 8, 2012)

The state Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a blowout at a natural gas pipeline installation near Leonards Creek in the Kunkle section of Dallas Township.

Chief Gathering LLC, which was recently bought out by PVR Partners, is laying a natural gas pipeline from wells in Susquehanna County to connect to the Transco interstate pipeline in Dallas.

The blowout occurred last week as contractors were boring beneath wetlands and some of the mud they were using blew out into the creek, according to state Department of Environmental Protection Spokeswoman Colleen Connolly. She did not know how much mud got  into the creek.

Click to Enlarge. Interactive map available here.
Sensitive Wetlands and Habitat
Regarding Loop 323, there are two highly protected wetlands given the Core Habitat distinction by the 2011 Pike County Natural Heritage Inventory where trees have already been felled in the wetland. (Gifford) Pinchot Brook and Dimmick Meadow Brook headwaters can now be drained and dredged within the work zone. In addition, the Delaware River between Handsome Eddy and Dingmans Ferry is also designated as Core Habitat. Additionally, hundreds of acres of protected habitat in the path and downstream of the Northeast Upgrade project. An interactive map is available here. The ACOE did not respond to our concern or recognize these designations in their permit.

Trout Fisheries and Recreational Impacts
Tennessee Pipeline Loop 322 Lackawaxen River crossing, 2011
April 13 marks opening day of trout season in most of Pennsylvania, which draws residents and out of state anglers to the Upper Delaware region, bolstering our tourism and recreation economy here. In addition, the abundance of pristine Class A Wild Trout Streams, High Quality Cold Water Fisheries, and Migratory Fisheries draw home buyers to our area. The Tennessee and Columbia pipelines' water crossings in Wayne and Pike Counties have already angered many anglers, most notably, the dredging of the Lackawaxen River in 2011 due to the erosion and sediment build up that endangers trout habitat.

According to the ACOE Permit, crossings in just Pike and Wayne alone include:
LOOP 321 - Eight Class A Wild Trout High Quality Cold Water Fisheries, Five High Quality Cold Water Fisheries, Five Migratory Fisheries
Berlin Township, Wayne County - 
   Four Tributaries to Indian Orchard Brook, HQ CWF Class A Wild Trout Stream
   Swamp Brook and two tributaries, HQ CWF MF
Berlin/Palmyra Townships, Wayne County - 
   One tributary of Rattle Snake Creek, HQ CWF Class A Wild Trout Stream
Lackawaxen Township, Pike County -
   Tinkwig Creek and tributary, HQ CWF MF
   West Falls Creek and three tributaries, HQ CWF Class A Wild Trout Stream

LOOP 323 - Four Class A Wild Trout High Quality Cold Water Migratory Fisheries, Six Exceptional Value Migratory Fisheries and three High Quality Cold Water Fisheries

Milford Township, Pike County - 
   Pinchot Brook head water wetlands and tributary, EV Wild Trout MF
   Dimmick Meadow Brook head water wetlands and tributary, EV Wild Trout MF
   Vantine Brook, HQ Wild Trout CWF MF
   Vandermark Creek, HQ Wild Trout CWF MF
   Laurel Brook, HQ Wild Trout CWF MF
Westfall Township, Pike County - 
   Deep Brook and tributary, EV Wild Trout MF
   Crawford Branch, HQ CWF MF
   Cummins Creek and three tributaries, HQ CWF MF Class A Wild Trout Stream
   UNT Delaware River, HQ CWF MF Wild Trout

Here are all permitted water body and wetland disturbances for Loops 317, 319, 321, and 323 and associated access roads:

Created with flickr slideshow.

And finally, a word from a U.S. Army veteran:


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