Seven (7) new pipelines seeking approval across Delaware River

PennEast natural gas pipeline environmental study firm’s connection to shale coalition is questioned

From an Article by Keith Brown, Times of Trenton, NJ,, February 28, 2015

The federal agency tasked with reviewing the proposed $1.2 billion PennEast natural gas pipeline has hired a company that is a paid member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which advocates for gas drilling, to conduct the environmental impact study for the project.

Tetra Tech, based in Pasadena, California, is an associate member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a trade association of 300 companies organized “to advance responsible shale development,” according to the association’s website.

The proposed 114-mile pipeline would be capable of transporting 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Marcellus Shale area of northeastern Pennsylvania to Hopewell Township in Mercer County, New Jersey.

Hopewell Mayor Harvey Lester said the connection between Tetra Tech and Marcellus Shale Coalition has at least the appearance of a conflict of interest and that should be enough to disqualify Tetra Tech from conducting the environmental impact study. “I am concerned about a potential conflict of interest by this environmental consultant performing the PennEast environmental impact statement, whose business interests support pipelines,” Lester said. “I’m concerned we’re not getting a fair shake.”

David Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, has publicly endorsed the PennEast project. “The PennEast Pipeline project further demonstrates the far-reaching regional benefits of shale development,” Spigelmyer is quoted as saying on the PennEast website. “PennEast, led by Pennsylvania and New Jersey consumer-focused companies, will not only create good paying jobs, it will deliver clean energy in a safe, cost-effective and responsible manner.”

The pipeline proposal has drawn criticism for cutting through environmentally sensitive areas as it traverses Hunterdon and Mercer counties. Leaders in every New Jersey town where the PennEast Pipeline would be built have passed resolutions opposing the project.

The only public hearing held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Mercer County, held Wednesday in Ewing, drew hundreds of residents expressing concerns about environmental and safety aspects of the plan.

PennEast, a consortium of East Coast natural gas providers, submitted the names of at least two companies bidding to produce the environmental study to FERC, which is tasked with reviewing the PennEast application. FERC selected Tetra Tech based on those applications, Teresa Young-Allen, FERC spokeswoman. “It was based on who was best qualified to help us,” she said. Tetra Tech works under the energy commission’s supervision but the company’s bills are paid by PennEast, Young-Allen said.

All applications to the energy commission are set up in this way to avoid the appearance of influence by the company making the application, while also not expending taxpayer money, Young-Allen said. “It’s to keep it as objective as possible,” she said.

As part of submitting the applications, PennEast was required to certify to FERC that the companies being considered were free from direct or indirect conflicts of interest. But the connection between Tetra Tech and the Marcellus Shale Coalition was never revealed to the energy commission because the coalition is a trade association, according to PennEast spokeswoman Patricia Kornick. “Involvement in industry trade groups is not a factor in that decision,” Kornick said. “And there would be no need to disclose that. I know there is some question on this. But no matter what the industry, trade group association is not a factor.”

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said the connection smacks of impropriety that should bar Tetra Tech from the project. “This is not just the fox guarding the hen house,” he said. “This is the fox doing the (environmental study) on the hen house and saying the hen house is safe.”


Note: Eleven (11) new pipelines or expansion projects have cut thru the boundaries of the Delaware River watershed since 2011 with seven (7) new ones seeking approval.

See also:  Delaware River Waterkeeper

See also:


Drill pads anywhere (and everywhere)?

Oil and gas industry aims to get its way

Guest Commentary by William R. Suan, Morgantown Dominion Post, March 1, 2015

The Marcellus shale once sounded like a financial opportunity that I wanted to be part of; however, it seems we now have an industry out of control using its money, lobbyists and political muscle to bully West Virginia property owners. The issue of forced pooling, fair pooling or lease integration, or whatever the industry wants to call it, is the taking of personal property rights to benefit profits of private corporations.

The industry argues that they cannot develop some mineral tracts because of lost and unaccounted for heirs. West Virginia has a statute addressing the issue, and it is a fair law. When there are missing and unknown heirs, the driller can lease that interest and put royalties in escrow for seven years. After the time is up, the property and royalties go to the surface owner.

The industry complains that the unwilling mineral owners who refuse to sign a lease are stopping them from developing mineral tracts to their full potential. Against unwilling owners who have a partial interest in a mineral tract and are unwilling to sign a lease, the industry can bring a partition action to settle the issue. Another issue is the industry saying we already have forced pooling in the Utica shale. This is a misleading statement. This law was passed before horizontal drilling and was passed for well-spacing purposes.

The gas industry has thousands of acres held by production (old leases) that they are not drilling. The industry says they can drill multiple wells on one Marcellus pad. Why are they not drilling more wells on existing pads? The gas industry has enough acres and leases to drill for many years.

The industry will use a forced pooling law to bully West Virginia property owners. Land men already use the tactic, “If you don’t sign this lease, we will just take it.” I have been threatened this way.

The oil and gas industry can come onto a person’s property, take acres of it because the minerals have been severed and owned by another party. Try to imagine owning property and being helpless when this industry shows up with its equipment and takes whatever it wants. They now want to lay pipelines by using eminent domain and can lay pipelines on property according to terms of an old lease. Now the industry is asking lawmakers to give them the right to come and take the mineral rights you own and tell you what you will be paid for them. This will be used to bring down the price of leases and eliminate negotiation. The mineral owner would have to make his or her case to not be “forced pooled” to the industry-friendly oil and gas commission.

The natural gas industry is a long way from running out of leased mineral tracts to drill. There is no need for a forced pooling law. The industry wants forced pooling to benefit its profits and investors, not West Virginia’s workers and mineral owners.

The industry has pushed this issue in past legislative sessions and it has failed. With the new “business friendly” leadership, I am sure the industry feels this is an opportunity to get its way.

If you want to protect private property rights, contact your legislator and tell them to vote “no” on the forced pooling law.

>>> William R. Suan is a mineral and farm owner near Lost Creek, in southern Harrison County, WV.

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