STOCKTON, N.J., Aug. 1, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association today called upon the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to withdraw the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) it recently issued for the proposed PennEast pipeline.
In comments filed on behalf of the two conservation organizations by the Eastern Environmental Law Clinic (EELC), the two groups allege that FERC's issuance of the DEIS violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because the DEIS contains significant missing data and precludes meaningful public review of and comment on the environmental impacts of the project.
According to Jennifer Danis, senior lawyer for EELC, language throughout FERC's DEIS indicates that the Commission has already prejudged PennEast's application by concluding that the environmental impacts "[will] be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of….mitigation measures," without ever examining whole categories of environmental data or those measures. "Prejudgment of this kind is a blatant violation of NEPA," said Danis.
"There has been an enormous outcry from groups and individuals regarding critical environmental information that is either inaccurate or missing from the PennEast application," said Tom Gilbert, campaign director for New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJ Conservation).
"It is unbelievable that on a project of such magnitude FERC would issue a DEIS with such glaring deficiencies and then impose a highly condensed public comment period," said Jim Waltman, executive director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association (SBMWA). "After all, the proposed pipeline would threaten some of the state's most pristine streams, damage tax-payer funded preservation lands, and take private property through eminent domain. This has all the markings of a rush job, not a thorough process to gather the facts and hear meaningful public comment from the people closest to the situation."
The groups expressed outrage that the comment period is to take place over the most active vacation and back-to-school period of the year, which includes six public hearings packed into three consecutive days in mid-August. In addition, none of the public hearings will be held in the towns that are along the pipeline route. They argued that the Ewing location is completely inadequate to accommodate the expected turnout and has only about 60 parking spaces. "It almost appears as if FERC set out to discourage public input," said Gilbert. "Let's make sure that our voices are heard loud and clear."
The groups have urged FERC to require a revised DEIS followed by an additional public comment period once the missing data is provided, in order to provide sufficient opportunity for the public to review and comment on the environmental impacts of the project.
NJ Conservation and SBMWA, together with HALT PennEast (Homeowners Against Land Taking), multiple Citizens Against PennEast groups (CAPS), the affected townships along the PennEast route, and the wider community shared details for upcoming FERC public hearings for the PennEast DEIS, noting that this critical, official comment period, which ends September 12, is the most important time to register formal, specific complaints with FERC. The groups also released dates for three (3) workshops being held to support individuals in drafting their PennEast DEIS-related comments.
The six (6) official FERC public hearings for the PennEast DEIS are currently scheduled for the following times:
Monday, August 15, 6-10pm
Penn's Peak, 325 Maury Road, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229
Best Western Lehigh Valley & Conference Center, 300 Gateway Drive,
Bethlehem, PA 18017
Tuesday, August 16, 6-10pm
Grand Colonial, 86 Route 173 West, Hampton, NJ 08827
Peddler's Village (Lahaska and Neshaminy Rooms), Routes 202 & 263,
Lahaska, PA 19831
Wednesday, August 17, 6-10pm
Clifford B. Martin Memorial Hall, 1666 Pennington Road, Ewing, NJ 08618
(PLEASE NOTE: Although this location was identified by FERC, inquiries
to the venue manager indicate that it has not been reserved for the public hearing.)
Best Western Genetti Hotel & Conference Center, 77 E Market Street, Wilkes-
Barre, PA 18701
Concerned individuals are urged to submit multiple comments to the PennEast docket (#CP15-558-000) via the following website at https://ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx, to tell FERC that this pipeline is not needed and not wanted in New Jersey. The workshops, where information and comment writing support will be provided, will take place at the following locations:
Tuesday, August 2, 7-9 pm*
33 Risler St, Stockton, NJ
Thursday, August 4, 6:30-9 pm*
The Holland Municipal Building
61 Church Rd., Milford, NJ
Monday, August 15, 7-9 pm*
Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association
31 Titus Mill Rd., Hopewell, NJ
*For the latest information and resources on submitting comments to the FERC PennEast docket, visit www.rethinkenergynj.org/StopPenneast.
"The next few weeks are critical in the PennEast fight. This is a very important time for the public to act," said Tom Gilbert. "We need people to submit their comments to FERC and attend these meetings in full force. We need to send a strong message to FERC that the way they are handling this is unacceptable, and that they should not approve this damaging, unneeded pipeline."
New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space - from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. www.njconservation.org
The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association works to keep central New Jersey's water clean, safe and healthy. Founded in 1949, the Watershed Association is headquartered at the LEED-Platinum Watershed Center for Environmental Advocacy, Science and Education in Hopewell Township. www.thewatershed.org
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SOURCE New Jersey Conservation Foundation