LETTER – De-Facto Moratorium on Pipelines Now that FERC Chair has Left

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Norman Bay had his final day today and now there are only two commissioners lacking the quorum needed to approve projects. His resignation came after President Trump replaced his position with Cheryl LaFleur who has been known to push pipelines and dirty infrastructure. This forced Bay to resign as chair and as a result the board cannot take any action. The delay to approve PennEast may even help stall connected infrastructure projects like the Garden State Expansion Chesterfield Compressor Station, New Jersey Natural Gas’ Southern Reliability Link pipeline, and other pipelines like Transco’s Northeast Enhancement Supply Project.


“Now that FERC Chair Norman Bay has left, there is no quorum for FERC to approve damaging and destructive pipelines. This is important because FERC does not enough votes to approve pipelines, which will cause a temporary moratorium until the board has a quorum. This happened because President Trump appointed pro-pipeline FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur as Chair, causing Bay to resign. Trump’s decisions have come back to haunt him. I guess he loves pipelines so much he just froze them, ” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Without having a quorum, this could delay pipeline approvals by months or even a year if we fight Trump’s nominations. That means we will delays to approve destructive pipelines like PennEast Pipeline, which could impact other connected projects like the Garden State Expansion Compressor Station, the Southern Reliability Link as well as Transco pipelines and dozens of others proposed throughout our state. Trump’s nominations will be climate-deniers and pro-dirty fuels like his proposed Cabinet, which is why we need our Senators to stand up against them.”

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In addition to PennEast Pipeline, other pipelines awaiting approval are Energy Transfer Partners LP’s Rover project; the PennEast shale line being built by a group of companies including UGI Corp. and Spectra Energy Corp.; and the Atlantic Sunrise system by Williams Partners LP. Spectra Energy’s Nexus system and National Fuel Gas Co.’s Northern Access expansion may also be affected. These nominations could occur before or after Trump’s cabinet are approved, but they will still take 60 days for the Senate to review and confirm them.


“Trump appointing a Chair to head FERC who is tied to the fossil fuel industry is now coming back to bite him because they don’t have enough votes to approve projects. Now we need our Senators to block filibuster any nominations made for FERC by President Trump. We must stop Trump from stacking the Commission with cronies from the natural gas and fracking industries that want to push through as many pipelines as possible. That is why we need to get our Senators to hold Trump’s nominees accountable and block them from being appointed because they will be pro-pipeline and anti-environment. The more we can delay these nominations, the longer it will take for FERC to take action on all of the unnecessary and destructive projects,” said Jeff Tittel. “FERC has always been a rubberstamp for the agency they are supposed to regulate who has had a revolving door of commissioners that are tied to the fossil fuel industry. Now is the time that we must stand up and remove FERC’s rubberstamp.”

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The PennEast Pipeline would threaten the entire Valley including 91 acres of wetlands and over 44 miles of forest; over 1,600 acres’ total. This is a serious project that will affect many people on both sides of the river. PennEast Pipeline also does not even have enough information for necessary permits required from NJDEP. The PennEast Pipeline violates the Clean Water Act and cannot meet the criteria for 404 permits. Also, we believe that this pipeline cannot meet the requirement for a 401 water quality permit. The reason is because of the amount of high quality streams, wetlands, and rivers it is crossing through. Many of these streams carry anti-degradation criteria. The route will cut areas with steep slopes having a bigger impact on streams because of siltation and runoff.


“FERC not having a quorum to approve pipeline projects is good because the more we can delay approvals the better chance we can stop these destructive projects. This is important in the battle to stop PennEast Pipeline as well as its connected infrastructure like the Garden State Compressor Station because there will be no approvals until FERC is able to vote. That is why we will work to block Trump’s nominations to the three open vacancies to delay the process even further. The nomination process will take   at least take 60 days for the Senate to confirm, but if our Senators work to block them it could be delayed even more,” said Jeff Tittel. “Without a certificate of need from FERC, PennEast Pipeline cannot move forward, which could impact other projects throughout the state. 70 percent of people have already said NO to PennEast. As a result of all the opposition, their approval has already been delayed three times and this could help push it back even longer. The more we delay these projects, the more market conditions can change and new elected officials come into office.”


With the delays happening at FERC, other pipelines and compressor stations could be delayed like the Garden State Expansion Compressor Station because it connects to PennEast would feed into New Jersey Natural Gas pipeline. Transco’s proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, including the compressor station in Trap Rock Quarry in Franklin Twp. as well as a new pipeline, called the Madison Loop would also need approval from FERC. The proposal includes 3.5 new miles of pipe in Old Bridge and Sayreville and 22 miles under the Raritan Bay. The project is meant to supply National Grid customers in New York and the people of New Jersey will not see any gas from it. Instead, we will face environmental, health, and safety risks from both the compressor station and pipeline.


“We must come together to stop Trump from nominating FERC commissioners that will work for the fossil fuel industry instead of the people of the United States and demand his nominations be rejected. New Jersey has over fifteen pipeline proposals and even more compressors stations that would do unnecessary harm to the environment and could be impacted by delays at FERC. Without having FERC approvals for PennEast, the Chesterfield Compressor Station, and pipelines like Transco the better chance we can kill these destructive projects. It will give us time for other agencies like DEP and the DRBC to reject these project, which could also stop it in its tracks. The more we delay pipelines and dirty infrastructure projects, the better chance we have of stopping it,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Trump’s appointment shows that his Administration will stop at nothing to push their agenda. Instead of draining the swamp, they are trying to fill it with pipelines and oil rigs. That is why it is up to us from them to stop this from happening.”