The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has rolled back protections for our streams and buffers and has opened up our waterways for pipelines and other destructive activities. Due to the change in the Flood Hazard Rules, they now determined that a pipeline crossing a stream will “not disturb the stream in any way.” The original rules that Christie got rid of would not have allowed this and instead protected the streams and their buffers. Over a year ago New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) applied for an individual permit which the DEP has been working on it ever since. After the change in the Flood Hazard Rules, withdrew their original individual permit and instead applied for a Permit-By-Rule for their Southern Reliability Link (SRL) pipeline. This is a major blow to the 43 streams that the SRL would cross.
“The DEP’s new determination is a sneak attack on clean water. They have reversed themselves and will now allow destructive pipelines to cut through streams and environmentally sensitive lands. The DEP has not only rolled back protections, but is now saying that building a pipeline through a stream has no impact on water quality, which doesn’t pass the straight-face test. By issuing this Permit-By-Rule the DEP is clearly violating the state and federal Clean Water Act and violating the Surface Water Quality Standards. If they say that crossing a stream has no impact, then they will just rubberstamp the 401 Water Quality certificate. This is an attack on our environment and a rubberstamp on a pipeline for dirty water,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “They are more concerned about building pipelines then they are about protecting clean water. If they can do this with the SRL pipeline, they can do it with other projects too. With 15 pipelines being proposed in New Jersey, this is a dangerous and outrageous sell-out by the DEP.”
I stated at the Senate Hearing for SCR66 that under the Flood Hazard Rules, pipelines would no longer need individual permits and could be pushed through by Permit-By-Rule. DEP Assistant Commissioner Ginger Kopkash said I was wrong and that they would still need individual permits. Clearly she has lied since NJNG has withdrawn their individual permit and instead applied for a Permit-By-Rule. Under an individual permit there has to be public hearings and they have to show that there are no impacts to water quality. Under a permit by rule, there is no public oversight.
“What the DEP is doing is shameful and rolls back 40 years of clean water protections. It’s simply a rubberstamp for damaging pipelines. Ginger Kopkash clearly lied on the record since now they are coming in for a Permit-By-Rule. This shows that we can’t trust the DEP to do their job or even be truthful to the people they’re supposed to be working for,”said Jeff Tittel. “This should show those environmental groups that kiss up to John Grey and praise DEP are only enabling them to do more damage.”
The Southern Reliability Link pipeline would go through the Pinelands National Reserve. The Pinelands is a UN biosphere reserve and one of the largest sources of fresh drinking water on the east coast. We are seriously concerned that the pipeline crosses New Jersey’s C-1 designated waters and associated wetlands and habitats. Many of these streams carry anti-degradation criteria. This project would put the environmentally sensitive lands, as well as drinking water for thousands of people, at risk.
“The DEP is saying that this pipeline is not a major development when it clearly is. They will dig up along the stream buffers and disturb the vegetation. Pollution from runoff will contaminate the waterways. Even the heat from the pipeline itself will change the water quality. There’s no way that a pipeline would not have significant impacts,” said Jeff Tittel. “If they’re doing this here, what will happen when they use this method to approve PennEast Pipeline which crosses 8 major C1 streams and cuts through Lambertville’s reservoir?”
The DEP’s Flood Hazard Rules make it easier for pipelines to be built because they eliminate protections of our streams, especially in important headwater and buffer areas. The rules allow for disturbance of C1 stream buffers. These C1 streams are of the highest quality and supposed to be afforded the most protection. The Rules also allow for more Permit-By-Rules. These exempt impacts from certain pipeline related activities that disturb these important buffer areas and impact water quality. Now the DEP is using these rules as a way to allow the SRL to run through the Pinelands to the shore and destroy streams along the way.
“The DEP has declared open season on clean water with these new Flood Hazard Rules and these ‘Permit-By-Rules’ pushing through pipelines. These rules will allow stormwater to be pumped directly into streams, get rid of important buffer protections, and allow improper development, even making it easier for pipelines to go through. The Rule will rollback decades’ worth of environmental protections,” said Jeff Tittel. “Not only are these Flood Hazard Rules dangerous for all of New Jersey’s waterways, but now the DEP is using them to rubberstamp unneeded and dangerous pipelines like the SRL.”
The construction and operation of the proposed attached Garden State Expansion compressor station would also potentially create water pollution and contaminate drinking water in the region. This is because of the use of hazardous chemicals and runoff from construction that could impact groundwater. This project presents a safety hazard to surrounding communities and environment, especially because of Transco’s history with incidents. Since 2006 Transco’s pipelines have been involved in at least 50 gas transmission incidents. In West Virginia, a pipeline exploded burning down 2 acres of forest.
“This pipeline and its attached compressor station would have severe environmental impacts, much more than they acknowledge. There will be more wetlands impacted than they admit and much more runoff and flooding. There are too many possibilities of safety concerns affecting environmentally sensitive land that have not been properly considered. An explosion or leak could destroy important habitat and ad pollution to waterways. These projects could potentially create safety hazards for surrounding communities and disrupt environmentally sensitive land and waterways,” said Jeff Tittel.
More natural gas lines create a higher demand for fracking and dirty infrastructure. These pipelines are bringing natural gas from the Marcellus Region of Pennsylvania throughout New Jersey down to the Jersey coast. Natural gas extraction involves injecting huge amounts of water and chemicals in rock formations that can pollute surrounding aquifers and waterways. The Delaware River, which supplies the drinking water for 15 million people, could be at risk if fracking continues in the region. The Pinelands, a UN biosphere reserve and one of the largest sources of fresh drinking water on the east coast are also at risk if this NJNG pipeline is approved.
“The DEP is using their sham Flood Hazard Rules to allow pipelines like the SRL to destroy our state. These lines will cut through environmentally sensitive streams, destroy buffers, and contaminate our drinking water. We must continue to fight against the pipeline but we also must continue to fight to overturn these dangerous rules,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Senator Sweeny must post SCR66 and let the Legislature to vote to block these hazardous Flood Hazard Rules and protect New Jersey’s waterways and drinking water from development like the SRL pipeline.”