Thursday, February 26, 2015


I’ve been trying to figure out who’s truly protecting this beautiful, rich country and her citizens?
Pennsylvania has an estimated 60,000 miles of gas pipelines and the PA  Public Utility Commission’s 13 inspectors are responsible for most of them. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is now issuing “Certificates of Necessity and Public Convenience” to pipeline companies for interstate transport of natural gas like there’s no tomorrow. (Well, maybe there won’t be.) But anyway---in 2005, federal legislative changes to the Natural Gas Act authorized FERC to issue private companies permission to exercise “eminent domain” to facilitate import and export of natural gas.
The “taking” of private property for gas extraction and sale starts when property owners with only surface rights are forced to give ground to sub-surface rights owners to drill and produce. The “public interest” concept got expanded to carry the product interstate, to “out of state” consumers. Now it has been expanded again to transport to foreign buyers. Among others, the proposed PennEast Pipeline carrying Marcellus Shale gas through the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania on the doorstep of the newly approved Cove Point, Md. export terminal.
Proposed PennEast Pipeline
As we see in a lot of other areas of legislative action, after issuing the permit, FERC hands over the responsibility for implementation, safety, compliance, and maintenance to--well, let’s see – the pipeline companies. The pipeline company is to hire and pay inspectors and submit progress reports. And after the line is in place the Department of Transportation (DOT) takes over. Each new pipeline brings more work for the 135 inspectors of the DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration who are responsible for inspecting compressors, meters and regulators and relief valves, and other infrastructure nationwide of over 3,000 individual gas companies, some big and some small. The gas companies are supposed to monitor their equipment regularly and submit reports. Something tells me those 135 inspectors are busy folks; or else they sit at their desks all day -- in shock.
Lines are approved even when their necessity is questionable. PennEast representatives said the proposed pipeline will provide gas to 4.8 million households in New Jersey when there are only 3.1 million homes in the state.
How many large, high pressure pipelines are sitting in various stages of approval that plan to go through the same area? Six, seven, or maybe 10? There have been more than 10 worked on in the Delaware River Basin since 2011.
What about damage to streams and rivers and animal habitats? Every newly approved or expanded pipeline carrying product out of state for private gain increases the number of wells that will be drilled, the animals which will be displaced, the water that will be poisoned and removed from our common water supply, which decreases the farms that are able to produce safe food, and on and on and on.
Stop! The entire system needs to be transformed from Environmental Destruction to Environmental Protection. And I can't even figure out where the Department of Environmental Protection fits in. Maybe they can't either.
Let’s stop the madness!!!
Regretfully Yours, Tom Church

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