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Nov 14

Public Information & the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline

One of the ugliest realities of new proposed pipelines for the Susquehanna Watershed is the threat of eminent domain.

When interstate pipelines receive certain permits from the Federal energy Regulatory Commission, they often have the power to – and history proves have in fact – taken private land for industrial use. The proposed Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Project promises to be no exception.

The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, or the Central Penn Lines North and South, would create a shortcut between the existing Transco Leidy Line in Columbia County with the Transcontinental Gas Pipeline in Lancaster County.  It is a greenfield pipeline, meaning it would create a new Right-Of-Way (ROW).  If constructed, Atlantic Sunrise will be 178 miles long, with at least 2 new compressor stations in Susquehanna and Columbia Counties, Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, federal agencies often won’t disclose lists of private citizens potentially affected by proposed pipeline projects. Disclosing impacted landowner lists is not only vital to informing local citizens about potential eminent domain threats, but to informing the general public about potential federal agency actions that affect community and environmental health, well-being, and safety.

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper is working to ensure full transparency from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Transco as the application process moves forward. In particular, we use tools like the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to advocate for transparent, scientifically-vetted, and accountable decisionmaking from federal agencies, all towards the goal of protecting community health and water quality in the Susquehanna.

More About FOIA

The Freedom of Information Act establishes a general philosophy of full agency disclosure. Congress enacted FOIA in 1966 to ensure the public’s right of access to information regarding the conduct of government affairs. The basic purpose of FOIA is to ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed.

As the Supreme Court has declared: “FOIA is often explained as a means for citizens to know what ‘their Government is up to.’” NARA v. Favish, 541 U.S. 157, 171 (2004) (quoting U.S. Dep’t of Justice v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749, 773 (1989). The Court elaborated that “[t]his phrase should not be dismissed as a convenient formalism.” Id. at 171-72. Rather, “[i]t defines a structural necessity in a real democracy.” Id. at 172. In enacting FOIA, Congress was “principally interested in opening administrative processes to the scrutiny of the press and public.” Renegotiation Bd. v. Bannercraft Clothing Co., 415 U.S. 1, 17 (1974).

 

 

Sep 16

Appeal of PADEP General Permit Supporting Use of Drill Cuttings in Pavement

Organizations object to research and development by driller Range Resources that would lead to use of gas well drill cuttings in roads and well pads on gas sites

Harrisburg, PA - Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, and Earthworks filed an appeal on September 15 with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) of a Residual Waste General Permit issued to Range Resources Appalachia and LAFARGE North America authorizing research and development activities to support the beneficial use of drill cuttings for pavement at gas well sites.

The General Permit allows the construction of a test well pad using drill cuttings in place of cement and could result in a beneficial use determination by PA Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) that will allow its use in well pads and access roads at gas well sites in the state. The test pad is located uphill from two exceptional value streams, Larry’s Creek and Dog Run Creek.

We petitioned the EHB based on the PADEP’s failure, among other things, to analyze and address the long-term impacts of the project on the community and the natural resources it depends upon and to review and address the long-term and cumulative risks to groundwater and surface water contamination.  The petitioners asked the EHB to reverse PADEP’s approval.

A copy of the filing is available at: http://bit.ly/1oWAG7Y

Aug 19

Technical Comments on the Proposed Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline

Yesterday we submitted these technical comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concerning a proposal to build a new series of gathering pipelines and infrastructure through Central Pennsylvania.

Besides the fact that decisionmakers haven’t cumulatively considered this project in relation to other, connected natural gas projects, our concerns are twofold:

First, that communities and watersheds of the Lower Susquehanna will be further threatened and degraded, respectively, for the convenience of corporate shareholders. We have some of the best farmland, unique rural communities, ecologically important creeks and wetlands – not to mention thousands of families – who each will be negatively affected by the construction and use of more pipelines and infrastructure.

Second, Transco’s own application touts the construction of the Atlantic Sunrise Project as benefiting, in part, the export of liquefied natural gas from a proposed LNG export terminal in the Chesapeake Bay. And where does that gas come from? Upstream, from fracking in Pennsylvania’s forests and small northern communities. First of all, we still haven’t seen any science showing that fracking can be done safely, and without environmental consequences and therefore don’t support fracking. Second, if companies are going to frack natural gas, why is it being shipped overseas? Apparently the talking point of “American Energy Independence” from fracking is just that: a talking point.

We will continue our strong advocacy on the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline to ensure that science, common sense and the rule of law is followed to best protect families, communities and watersheds of the Lower Susquehanna.

 

Jul 31

The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline & the Susquehanna

Hey River Folk!

We thought it was about time you all had some solid facts on the new, big pipeline proposed to run through Southcentral Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna Watershed. Here’s what we’re all facing:

The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline is really the connection of the Central Penn Lines North and South. It would create a shortcut between the existing Transco Leidy Line in Columbia County to our north with the Transcontinental Gas Pipeline in Lancaster County.

More importantly, it is being proposed as a greenfield pipeline, meaning it would create a new Right-Of-Way (ROW), which really means they aren’t planning to use existing pipeline paths and easements, but instead to cut up farmland, properties, and forests for a new route.

What we’ve read in the Notice of Intent to file with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the following:

  • 178 miles long, with at least 2 new compressor stations in Susquehanna and Columbia Counties, Pennsylvania.
  • It’ll be an interstate line, meaning it requires a federal certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), as well as state permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for stream crossings, and air permits for compressor stations.

What Can You Do? Make Your Voice Heard at Public Scoping Meetings and by Commenting!

The project is currently in the scoping period where regulators seek your two cents before they perform an environmental review document known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Williams Representatives have stated that they anticipate filing a formal application within the next 6-9 months. When the official application is filed with FERC, as opposed to the pre-filing currently happening, anyone who is interested can file a motion to intervene in the application.

Below is a spreadsheet with dates & times for public scoping meetings.

These are opportunities to tell FERC what to review during its environmental review process! You have the right under law to tell FERC it should review any issue that is ecological, aesthetic, historic, cultural, economic, social or health related, whether such an issue is directly, indirectly, or cumulatively related to the proposed pipeline!

For example, the following are all legal considerations that you can demand FERC take into account:

Loss of interior forests • Increase of fracking along Atlantic Sunrise route • Increase in gas infrastructure • Future construction of pipelines through this right-of-way (ROW) • Greenhouse gas emissions from Cove Point Export Facility • Health impacts from fracking • Historic sites along the route • Native American sites along the route • Full restoration of ROW including replanting trees • Health impacts from compressor stations • Potential emergency scenarios • Domestic gas prices due to exports overseas • Impacts to Amish community and other constituencies along route • Methane releases due to fugitive emissions along entire route and contribution to climate change • Directional drilling below streams to reduce impacts • Reduction of ROW size • Emotional strain of having a highly pressurized gasline nearby.

You can come to one of the public meetings noted above, or submit any comments online before August 18th by clicking this link and entering in the project name and docket number:  https://ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx

Jun 27

August is Codorus Creek month in York City!

Howdy River Folks!

Please mark your calendars for the following river activity dates:

The Creek Cleanup this year is August 1st , 2nd, and 3rd.

The annual Codorus Boat Parade is August 23rd.

Click the two links below for our flyers.

Codorus Cleanup big flyer2014

FINAL Boat Parade 2014 flyer full page

Jun 17

Comments on Proposed Chesapeake Bay LNG Export Facility

On June 16th, 2014 we submitted this technical comment letter detailing why the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Export Facility in Lusby, MD cannot move forward because of significant flaws in its environmental review.

The comment letter was submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency with authority over proposals to export and import natural gas. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, FERC is the federal agency that is responsible for assessing the environmental impacts of LNG export proposals pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The proposal to export LNG from the Chesapeake Bay via the existing, Lusby MD import terminal is bad news for upstream watersheds and communities like the Susquehanna. This is because LNG export from the Chesapeake is specifically tied to development of shale gas reserves like the Marcellus and Utica, shale reserves which underlay much of the Susquehanna River Basin and Pennsylvania.

Development of these shale plays is and continues to occur via the use of hydraulic fracturing, an inherently polluting industrial practice that, in order to extract shale gas, disturbs wide swaths of intact forest, meadow, and farmland, disturbs headwater creeks and vital fisheries habitat, and threatens groundwater supplies with its deep-earth injections. Furthermore, its infrastructure – like new and expanded pipelines, compressor stations, and the like – is already converting valuable cropland and threatening public safety and well-being throughout the downstream Lower Susquehanna. For instance, the proposed, controversial Lancaster Co. natural gas pipelines are part and parcel of helping bring gas from upstream watersheds to the export facility in the Chesapeake.

These and other environmental impacts associated with shale gas development in the Susquehanna and Mid-Atlantic are what FERC’s environmental review should have considered. Unfortunately, FERC has turned a blind-eye to these types of impacts, and refused to consider them as it moves forward in trying to authorize LNG export from the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, FERC not only refused to consider impacts to upstream communities like the Susquehanna, it also refused to even perform a robust study, choosing to perform an abbreviated review – called and Environmental Assessment – instead of a thorough, probing review – called an Environmental Impact Statement.

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper will continue its strong, science-based advocacy to ensure decisionmakers rightfully consider the full-range of impacts that an LNG export facility in the Chesapeake will mean for upstream communities and watersheds like the Susquehanna.

 

May 19

Env’tl Review Document Released for Proposed Maryland LNG Export Facility

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its environmental review of the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas export facility at Lusby, MD on May 15, 2014.

We at Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper have been watch-dogging the proposal to export LNG from the Chesapeake Bay since its beginning in 2011. Why?  Because the fracking happening in upstream communities like the Susquehanna will directly support downstream supply and demand, especially LNG export demand to foreign nations. Unfortunately, the nexus between upstream gas production and resulting impacts from fracking and its infrastructure are not issues that FERC’s new environmental review document examines.

Your Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Michael Helfrich, had this to say about the Cove Point LNG Environmental Assessment:

“LNG facilities like the one proposed for Cove Point are intended to ship America’s natural gas off to foreign lands,” said Michael Helfrich, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper. “Gas drillers can ship American gas overseas in order to make more money, increase the price of natural gas for us, and our communities and environment get ravaged by the shale gas ‘gold rush,’ including thousands of miles of new pipelines through the upstream watersheds like the Susquehanna Watershed. FERC’s failure to recognize and address the nexus between upstream impacts and downstream LNG export in its environmental review of the Cove Point export proposal not only threatens community and environmental health, it also throws the idea of American energy independence out the window.”

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper will continue to monitor and engage in the Cove Point LNG export permitting process to ensure FERC does its job and protects not just gas producers’ bottom line, but that FERC takes into account the negative economic, social and environmental costs that we in upstream communities have and continue to experience as a result of fracking.

Click here to read our press release on FERC’s release of its EA.

Click here to read the EA.

Apr 01

2014 Susquehanna Biathlon

The 4th Annual Susquehanna Biathlon will be held on June 21, 2014 with the same unique run-paddle combination and beautiful course! No other event in Central PA combines two of our favorite hobbies — trail running and river paddling — for the best cause of all: supporting clean water.

The race starts at John Wright Restaurant located at 234 North Front Street in Wrightsville, PA at 8:30am and goes until 12:30.

Run and paddle with us on Saturday, June 21st and support the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper’s work of keeping our water fishable, swimable, and drinkable!

Please visit www.SusquehannaBiathlon.org for details and registration!

Apr 01

Saying “NO” to Fracking Drill Cuttings in Road Paving

Oil and gas operators face a growing challenge in handling and disposing of the increasing volumes of solid and liquid waste they produce. However, this challenge should not be a reason to allow dangerous subtances that threaten health and the environment to be used in ways that can have unknown consequences for the public and waterways.

Unfortunately, just such a rationale is being used by the fracking industry to justify a recent application to “beneficially re-use” fracking drill cuttings as constituents in road paving. Drill cuttings are a mixture of soil, rock, and other subterranean matter brought to the surface during drilling of the wellbore. Generally, drill cuttings are considered earthen material, which is excluded from the definition of solid waste.

However, drill cuttings are considered a solid waste when they come in contact with contaminated sources common to the drilling process. Drilling muds are routinely used to lubricate the drill and help remove cuttings from the wellbore. A mixture of chemicals and other constituents are generally present in the drilling muds.  Once drill cuttings come into contact with drilling muds and other sources of contaminants (e.g. oils and chemical additives), then the cuttings are considered contaminated and need to be managed as a solid waste.

Disposal of fracking wastes, particularly drill cuttings, is a big issue in the Susquehanna Watershed and Pennsylvania. In 2012 Pennsylvania landfills accepted an estimated 785,000 tons of drill cuttings. Another 81,000 tons were shipped across the border into New York.

Because fracking shale gas involves the use of dangerous, toxic and hazardous substances that threaten water quality and human health, drill cuttings and like byproduct need to be properly disposed of! That is why we submitted this comment letter to the Pennsylvania DEP explaining why science, common sense and the law all weigh heavily against allowing fracking drill cuttings in road pavement.

Mar 14

Comments on Proposed Changes to Pennsylvania’s Oil & Gas Rules (Ch.78)

In mid-December 2013, the Pennsylvania DEP issued proposed changes to the state’s oil and gas regulations, known as Ch. 78 of the Pennsylvania Code. Act 13, the oil and gas law passed by the legislature in 2012, required the DEP to make these changes. The changes are also necessary because older regulations concerning conventional drilling are outdated and inadequate given the different type, scope, and pollution impacts arising from shale gas development.

We joined two different advocacy comment letters pinpointing key gaps and needed improvements in the proposed Ch. 78 revisions.

 

First, we joined Earthjustice in filing this comment letter which, in a very thorough, science-based fashion, examines each part of the proposed rule changes. Several key points made in this letter include:

  • pre-drill water testing and policies for restoration and replacement of contaminated water supplies
  • improvements to fracking pits and wastewater impoundments
  • improvements to drill cutting and waste material disposal rules

 

Second, we joined the Environmental Integrity Project in filing this comment letter. This letter specifically addresses two primary areas of concern commonly overlooked in fracking regulation:

  • tracking and remediation of abandoned and orphaned wells
  • improved requirements concerning seismic testing

 

Each of the comment letters above identifies important improvements that science and common sense demand, and which are vital to protecting the ecological health and aesthetics of the Susquehanna Watershed. Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper continues to oppose further, increased shale gas fracking in the Susquehanna and Pennsylvania because, as currently practiced, fracking is an inherently polluting industrial activity that threatens water quality, fisheries and community health.

 

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