FERC Issues Approval for North Jersey Compressor Expansion Project

New compressors would allow the company to pipe higher volumes of gas - fracked in Pennsylvania - at greater pressure through an aging pipeline system to Westchester County NY.

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Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

At their monthly board meeting, on Thursday, April 21 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a “Certification of Public Convenience and Necessity” to Tennessee Gas Pipeline LLC (TGP) for their proposal for new fracked gas compressor stations in North Jersey. This “certification” is the final federal approval TGP needs for their project. State permits remain pending.

Tennessee Gas Pipelines’  “East 300 Upgrade” expansion project involves the construction of two new gas compressor stations — one in Wantage Township that would more than triple the size of the existing facility there, and one in West Milford at the site of a former quarry less than 1200 feet from the Monksville Reservoir which connects to the water supply of 3.5 million NJ residents. Compressor stations maintain or increase pressure in natural gas transmission lines, and operators regularly “blowdown” the facility releasing gas when too much pressure has built up. These new compressors would allow the company to pipe higher volumes of gas – fracked in Pennsylvania – at greater pressure through an aging pipeline system to Westchester County NY. This project serves no benefit to NJ residents but brings increased danger, air pollution, and noise to NJ communities.

Adam Carlesco, Staff Attarney, Food & Water Watch said:

“In approving this project, FERC disregarded relevant state climate law, neglected environmental review requirements, and failed to demonstrate that this project is required by the public interest. Despite recent losses in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the Commission has continued to ignore the long-term climate consequences of its permitting and has betrayed the principles of scrutinous oversight it sought to embody with its proposed certification policy.”

“Knowing Climate Change is a real threat, FERC shouldn’t be permitting new Fossil fuel infrastructure at all. They should be improving the electric grid,” said Renee Allessio, Board Member of Sustainable West Milford. “As a long time resident of West Milford, it’s insane that FERC would allow a new compressor station to be built near 2 major reservoirs that supply the drinking water for millions of New Jerseyans.”

FERC is well known for “rubber-stamping” fossil fuel projects in the United States.  Out of hundreds of applications, FERC has approved permits 99% of the time for pipelines, compressor stations, and gas-fired energy plants. FERC has only denied 2 permits for natural gas pipelines and compressor stations out of 500 applications received since 1999.

Activists and environmentalists were hopeful that recent changes at FERC would start to change FERC’s approach towards approving fossil fuel infrastructure and evaluating climate impacts, and result in FERC rejecting TGP’s unnecessary expansion. In February of this year the commission issued new guidance for natural gas project approval, which included for the first time, a climate change impacts evaluation threshold.

“Sadly, and predictably, FERC continues to act as the industry’s agent instead of safeguarding the public’s interests. They rubber-stamped this project without requiring the rigorous proofs of safety that should be mandated,” said Julia Somers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. “We are not well served by this decision and will continue to work with our partners to oppose the project in every way possible.” 

In addition to climate concerns, residents and activists are concerned about the threat to air quality and public health posed by these compressors.

“I continue to stand firmly against TGP’s expansion, as it threatens my home and my health, clean air and water, as well as the native plant and wildlife. We cannot allow a company, that has already shown itself to be unethical and irresponsible, to spew toxins into the air, water, and ground, all within reach of our town’s elementary and secondary schools, and peoples’ homes,” said Allison Orsi, MA, LPC, Resident of Wantage Township, NJ. “The bottom line is, we don’t need natural gas, in fact it is killing us: we need to keep fossil fuels in the earth, so they don’t exacerbate climate change. We need to stop this expansion.”

The health implications of compressor stations are real, including hearing impairments and sleep disturbance, to say nothing of potential toxic impacts associated with inhalation of the colorless and odorless methane gas from leaks that can lead to such things as slurred speech, vision problems, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing and headaches, at elevated concentrations, said “Dr. Judy Zelikoff, Professor, Dept. of Environmental Medicine, NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

Despite this approval, residents and activists will continue to organize against this project and call on Governor Murphy to live up to our states climate commitments and stop this project by directing the NJ DEP to reject the state permits needed for it’s approval. The DEP plans to hold a public hearing on the Title V Air Permit required for the project in the coming months.

“These compressor stations put people and the environment at risk. These facilities create air pollution and water pollution by releasing toxic chemicals such as methane, ethane, MTBEs and other chemicals. An explosion or leak could threaten communities, impact critical drinking water for over 3 million people, and destroy sensitive ecosystems in the Highlands Preservation Area,” said Taylor McFarland, Conservation Program Manager, Sierra Club, NJ. “Even though FERC has given the green light for TGP, New Jersey can still stand up and deny this disastrous project.” 

Contact: Sam DiFalco, [email protected]