NJDEP and Governor Murphy: Don’t Delay — Deny PennEast Pipeline’s Deficient Water Permits Today!

The company behind the PennEast Pipeline project—a proposed fracked gas pipeline project that would cut through 40 miles of New Jersey farmland, forests, wetlands, waterways, and communities in Hunterdon and Mercer Counties—is attempting to secure critical permits and Clean Water Act certification from the state of NJ with clearly deficient, false, and incomplete application materials. The clock is now ticking for the state of NJ to exercise its Clean Water Act authority to stop the project before they waive their rights!

PennEast has once again submitted an application for freshwater wetlands and flood hazard area permits to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP); and NJDEP has once again told them that the application is deficient (see NJDEP’s September 5, 2019 Deficiency letter). As the preliminary list of deficiencies below makes clear, PennEast cannot and will never be able to meet the requirements of New Jersey law or its Clean Water Act 401 Certification needed to build the pipeline. PennEast knows this, and the company is obviously trying to use a recent FERC order that stripped states’ rights to protect their sensitive and diverse natural habitats to evade NJ’s approval entirely by running down their clock. We need your help to make sure that they don’t get away with this—call on the NJDEP and Governor Murphy to immediately deny the PennEast’s Clean Water Act section 401 Water Quality Certification and to deny the NJ Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit and NJ Flood Hazard Area Permit.

New Jersey cannot approve the permits for this project because the applications are simply too deficient to accept and impossible to rectify as PennEast has consistently proven. In addition to the gaps identified by NJDEP, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has identified additional deficiencies, false assumptions, and blatant disregard for the law in PennEast’s application. These include:

  • Throughout the application, PennEast repeatedly ignores the rules and “assumes” a 50-foot protective buffer area is sufficient at regulated wetland and stream crossings which clearly require a 150-foot buffer. These crossings cut through documented and suitable habitat for threatened and endangered species that are already at peril. The difference between a 50-foot buffer and a 150-foot buffer is significant for water quality protection as well as the survival of these species—particularly aquatic species such as long-tailed salamanders, which are sensitive to water quality changes. This 50-foot buffer area “mistake” (or perhaps intentional oversight given how often it is repeated) is repeated multiple times throughout the application for additional species such as the bobolink and red-headed woodpecker.
  • Temporary bridges and culverts are not exempt from flood hazard permits or authorization, as PennEast falsely asserted in its application. Each of the proposed temporary bridges or culverts requires an Individual Permit review, requiring additional hydrologic and hydraulic calculations. It is highly unlikely that PennEast will be able to provide such accurate and sound analyses for their temporary structures in only 30 days.

Streams, riparian native forested buffers, wetlands, soils, and forests adjacent to streams would not only be directly cut and destroyed by this pipeline, but they would also be indirectly harmed by the exacerbated climate change impacts this pipeline would cause. The science is clear and the climate cannot wait—NJDEP and Governor Murphy have the power and the obligation to consider the catastrophic climate impacts to our water for these permits and we must demand the Governor and his DEP finally connect the dots and deny these permits outright NOW.

This is not the first time that PennEast has submitted a deficient freshwater wetlands and flood hazard area permit application to the NJDEP and it will surely not be the last. PennEast has repeatedly demonstrated that it is unable to comply with the regulations despite being given multiple opportunities to do so. But NJDEP’s deficiency letters do not stop the 12 month clock on the Department’s decision-making that was started with PennEast’s application submission on August 8, 2019, as has been made clear by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) recent Order limiting state’s time to review and approve Clean Water Act 401 certification. We need a clear and hard “NO”, denying PennEast’s 401 certificate, TODAY!

Write to NJDEP and Governor Murphy today and urge them to quickly and clearly deny the PennEast Pipeline Project's Clean Water Act section 401 Water Quality Certification and to deny the NJ Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit and NJ Flood Hazard Area Permit. Feel free to use the sample text in the form on the page, modify it, and add your own thoughts.

PennEast cannot be built without obtaining 401 approval from NJ and a docket approval from the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). We need to ensure NJ does not waive their right to act to protect its natural and public resources. And we need to be sure DRBC sees that the information and lack of information in the PennEast application materials also makes clear that DRBC should deny its docket. Please also copy the DRBC on your comments through the portal.