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BPU Asked To Table Pipeline Review Pending Pinelands Commission Review

Board Must Not Repeat Past Mistakes

Here is a lengthy post growing out of the recent public hearing,  submitted to BPU – Paraphrasing Paul Simon, feel free to borrow what you like and disregard the rest and send to BPU at this address ASAP – not sure when the public comment period ends:      board.secretary@bpu.state.nj.us

Re:   In the Matter of the Petition of South Jersey Gas Company for Authorization to Construct a 24” Pipeline

Docket No. GO13030202

att/Irene Kim Asbury

Secretary, Board of Public Utilities

P.O. Box 350, Trenton,

NJ 08625-0350

Dear Commissioners:

I write to urge you to reject the subject application and respond on the record to the following questions and concerns.

I attended and spoke at the public hearing held on June 17, 2015 in Upper Township, NJ. These comments are in addition to my testimony.

1. Public hearing procedure was flawed – tainted hearing requires another public hearing

At the outset of the public hearing required by law, Commissioner Fiordaliso allowed the applicant to make “a short introductory statement”:watch here:

Part 1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRaQSpIZTAE

Part 2 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g8S3_U5a_c

What transpired for over 30 minutes was an attempt by the applicant to preempt public comments and present sworn expert witness evidence testimony.

This was a public hearing, not a quasi-judicial evidentiary hearing.

Accordingly, the applicant’s presentation was totally inappropriate and out of order, bordering on professional misconduct. The applicant not only exceeded reasonable time limits and consumed the hearing, the presentation had an illegitimate impact on Commissioners, BPU staff, and the public.

In fact, much of the public testimony, including my own, had to be refocused, compressed, and revised to rebut misleading statements made by the applicant.

The fact that the applicant’s presentation was not objected to by Board staff present and was allowed to proceed uninterupted by Commissioner Fiordaliso for over 30 minutes tainted the hearing and requires that the matter be subject to a fresh public hearing.

The Board needs a structured process to allow qualified testimony on the many energy, regulatory, environmental, safety, and land use issues raised by this application.

The Board should NOT repeat previous mistakes made in prior Board Orders of April and June 2013, particularly in getting out in front of and undermining the public decsion-making process of the Pinelands Commission pursuant to the Comprehensive Management Plan.

2. Prior Board Orders Raise questions and concerns

The Board issued two prior Orders in this matter:

  • an April 29, 2013 Order which provided numerous significant unfounded findings (e.g. “fewer air emissions”) and provided subsidies to the project, including requiring ratepayers to pay for a big part of it; exemptions from RGGI greenhouse gas emission allowance purchase requirements and Societal Benefits Charges; and a “confidentiality” agreement to keep the economics secret; and
  • June 21, 2013 Order which curiously included a MOA with the Pinelands Commission before that controversial issues was ever discussed before the Commission, approved a host of questionable issues, from the need for the project, alternatives, safety, and the pipeline route. Amazingly, it included this statement:


These Orders give rise to the following questions, which should be openly engaged by the Board and responded to on the record:

1) Was the Board or staff lobbied by representatives of Wolff  Samson, the firm that is representing BL England plant owner Rockland Capital?

2) who requested and why did the Board agree to include a MOA with the Pinelands Commission in the June Order, prior to the Commission’s public discussion of a MOA with BPU?

3) why was the Societal Benefits Charge exemption included in the Order? What is the legal basis and public policy rationale for that?

3. The geographic distribution of alleged benefits and costs must be determined by the Board and allocated

Based upon the applicant’s testimony at the June 17, 2015 public hearing and the May 21, 2015 amended application submitted to the Pinelands Commission, the applicant making contradictory factual claims and conflicting arguments. (I incorporate the 5/21/15 application to the Pinelands Commission by reference).

Accordingly, because material facts are in dispute that will determine regulatory outcomes, the Board must find facts and make conclusions.

Specifically, applicant makes arguments concerning pipeline “resilience” and grid “reliability” benefits to consumers.

The Board must review and determine the accuracy and credibility of the applicant’s arguments.

The Board needs to make findings of fact regarding the location of consumers that would enjoy these alleged benefits with respect to Pinelands boundaries. Such findings of fact are critical in this regard, given the Pinelands CMP requirement that the project ” “primarily serve only the needs of the Pinelands”  (see: NJAC 7:50-5.23 (b)12)

Similarly, we understand that the pipeline project entails a “dedicated line” (costs allocated to the applicant and/or BL England plant) and a “resilience line” (costs allocated to ratepayers).

The Board needs to spatially disaggregate the costs and benefits of these two lines. at least with respect to cost liability, alleged reliability benefits and alleged resiliency benefits. The spatial allocation must consider the Pinelands boundaries, given the requirements of the CMP cited above.

4. The air quality analysis if flawed

The applicant relies on what has been referred to as a DEP Air Quality Analysis.

Part I)  Technical Misrepresentations

First of all, the document in question is not – repeat not – a “DEP Air Quality Benefits Study”. The “study” was NOT conducted by DEP. Instead, the so called “study” was conducted by a private consultant paid for by the owners of the BL England Plant. According to a DEP September 16, 2013 memo to Wittenberg:

Attached is a description and results of an air quality modeling analysis conducted to assess the air quality benefit of the Repowering Project in the Pinelands Area. The figures in this memo were provided by the environmental consultant AECOM under contract with RC Cape May and under the supervision and approval of NJDEP.

So it is false to call this a “DEP study”.

 Second, the scope of the so called “DEP study” is inconsistent with what Wittenberg’s requested in terms of geographical and technical scope of work to DEP. Specifically, in a July 31, 2013 email, Wittenberg requested that DEP conduct an “evaluation of the public benefits” of the repowering to the “Pinelands area”. DEP memo:

In your email dated July 31, 2013, you requested an evaluation of public benefits of the Repowering Projects to the defined Pinelands Area.

But the so called DEP study” did NOT examine “public benefits” – it presented BL England’s views of the “air quality benefit” of repowering – obviously, a “public benefit” is very different than “air quality benefits”, which in this case was narrowly restricted to a sham comparison of coal versus natural gas emission rates.

Third, and the most serious misrepresentation, is the way Ms. Weinberg publicly presented this “study” (on Wednesday December 4 – see this for Wittenberg’s powerpoint).

 The presentation of air quality issues begins on slide 13.

Slides 13 -14 are based on the “DEP study”, while the source of slides 15 – 16 regarding historical annual operating hours of the BL England plant is not attributed. However, with no source attribution, the following the “DEP” slides 13-14 and the sequence clearly implies – and was meant to create the appearance – that the data came from the same DEP study summarized in previous slides 13 – 14.

Note that the “study” is now described as “DEP Air Quality Modeling”. Ms. Wittenberg knows that that phrase is a regulatory term of art, with defined technical content. So this description not only implies that the “study” was conducted by the DEP but that it meets DEP’s rigorous air quality modeling regulatory requirements.

 I am not making mere semantic distinctions here – Ms Wittenberg clearly understands the significance of this, because she previously served as DEP Assistant Commissioner with management responsibility over the DEP’s air quality planning and permitting groups that actually conduct modeling and impact analysis.

 There are several relevant and applicable DEP regulatory Guidance documents on air quality modeling, human health and environmental impact assessment, and power plant permitting, including:

  • Guidance on preparing an air quality modeling protocol
  • Guidance on preparing a risk assessment for air contaminant emissions
  • Guidelines for evaluating proposed emission rates
  • Inclusion of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP’s) in air permits
  • Modeling and permitting for PM 2.5 Sources
  • Procedures for conducting risk assessments to determine incremental health risks
  • Sources requiring an air quality impact analysis
  • State of the Art Applicability for Modified sources (BL England is modified source)
  • Risk assessment guidance

The so called “DEP study” Ms. Wittenberg alludes to does not come remotely close to meeting the substantive requirements of ANY of these DEP regulatory requirements for conducting air quality modeling and impact analysis from a power plant.

Ms. Wittenberg KNOWS ALL THIS so she is intentionally misleading the public and the Commissioners regarding what was done and who did it and what it means.

Fourth, it is important to understand the difference between an emission rate and actual air pollution emitted. Generally, emission rates are expressed as pound of pollution per hour. This rate must be multiplied by hours of operation to calculate pollution emissions.

This distinction is critical to understand the opponents argument that, even with lower emission rates of natural gas compared with coal, pollution will increase due to increased plant operation. (and this does not include the actual health impacts and risks of those emissions, which the so called “study” does not even attempt to consider, which is another major flaw outside the scope of this analysis).

 The so called study is based exclusively on pollutant “emission rates of  criteria air pollutants” from coal fired versus natural gas plants. The study states this (@ page 2):

BL England Air Pollutant Emissions – Current and Repowering Project

The Repowering Project will be fueled exclusively by natural gas. By retiring the two existing coal-fired boilers and converting the residual oil boiler into a gas boiler, significant reductions in air pollutant emissions will occur. Table 1 shows the hourly and annual allowableemission rates of criteria air pollutants before and after the Repowering Project. The pre-project PM2.5 emissions were assumed equivalent to PM10. The station’s current permit allowable emission rates were discounted to the limits established in the NJDEP Administrative Consent Order (ACO). The pre-ACO permit allowable emission rates were much higher.

But this so called study DOES PRESENT ACTUAL BL ENGLAND PLANT OPERATING DATA (they must be implied or assumptions in the model).

 This is a huge flaw and the public can not verify the findings because of the omission of this critical data on BL England plant operating history and the predicted on line or capacity factors of the proposed repowered gas plant.

 However, Ms. Wittenberg’s powerpoint (slides #15 – 16) provide this operating data – but that data did not come from the DEP study. The source of this data is not provided. Nor is the implied use of the data in the so called “study” explained.

It is a highly misleading practice to juxtapose data and findings from a “DEP study” sequentially with data from another source (BL England?) in a way that clearly creates the appearance that the unsourced data was part of the DEP study.

 If a scientist did this his reputation would be shot and his paper would never be published. A graduate student could not get away with such misleading crap in a Master’s Thesis.

 Fifth, In addition to all this – and this is a HUGE gaping flaw in the air quality review – the scope of the study was limited to “criteria pollutants”, which means that it did NOT address the most important pollutants that will be emitted by the pipeline project – directly and indirectly – greenhouse gases CO2 and methane!

Let’s repeat that: the Pinelands Commission ignored greenhouse gas emissions and their impacts from a major regional fossil fuel project, when:

1) The Pinelands Protection Act and the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) provide clear authority, jurisdiction, policies, standards, and regulations pertaining to the air quality and ecological impacts of projects regulated by the Commission – including primary, secondary, induced, and cumulative impacts;

2) The sole – exclusive – stated purpose of the South Jersey Gas Co, pipeline, according to Commission staff, is:

To supply natural gas to the existing Beesley’s Point coal-fired electric generation plant (B.L. England) located outside the Pinelands, in Upper Township

(note that the staff’s stated purpose does NOT include “reliability”, a justification that clearly waspost hoc).

3) The South Jersey Gas pipeline will directly emit greenhouse gases, as will the BL England power plant and other gas users;

4) According to the US Forest Service and the Commission’s own scientists, Pinelands forests and ecosystems currently are being adversely impacted by climate change caused by theemissions of greenhouse gases (GHG);

5) greenhouse gases (GHG) have been defined and regulated as “air pollutants” in NJ since 2005;

6) The NJ Global Warming Response Act mandates that statewide GHG emissions be reduced by 80% from 2006 levels by the year 2050 – the Commission’s decisions must be guided by these mandatory emission reductions;

7)  current US EPA regulations mandate that gas pipelines report greenhouse gas emissions;

6) current US EPA regulations mandate that gas fired power plants report GHG emissions;

8.  there are readily available US EPA adopted GHG emissions factors for regulated activities and sources, including natural gas drilling and gas wells, storage facilities, transmission lines, pipelines, and related infrastructure;

9) proposed EPA regualtions will require GHG emissions reductions from gas power plants;

10) South Jersey Gas Co. voluntarily reports to investors current greenhouse gas emissions:

The US Environmental Protection Agency finalized a Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule, which required LDCs like South Jersey Gas to put in place monitoring and recordkeeping systems that are establishing the baselines for reporting that went into effect in 2010.

SJI management understands that there are risks and opportunities associated with this challenge. Our responsibility to customers and shareholders is to prepare for a carbon-constrained economy in the future. Our company has taken action to better understand the sources and magnitude of GHG emissions for our overall enterprise, including an enterprise-wide GHG inventory completed in 2010. Using this information, we are regularly evaluating options to reduce GHG emissions within our operations and continue developing options for our customers to reduce their emissions as well. We are committed to remaining informed about GHG policy developments and to developing strategies that allow us to capitalize on opportunities stemming from climate change initiatives.

5. Impact on off shore wind and on shore renewables must be considered

There was credible public testimony offered at the public hearing that the project, and BL England re-powering, would create infrastructure capacity and transmission barriers to off shore wind and on shore solar.

We understand that there is – or was – a moratorium on connections to new solar capacity.

The Board must make determinations with respect to these adverse impacts and if they exist, either address and resolve these issues prior to final decision or include them as conditions in the Board’s Order of approval.

6. Project Related grid upgrades must be specified and costs allocated as part of review process

The applicant has argued that failure to gain approval of the pipeline will lead to costly grid upgrades.

The Board needs to evaluate the credibility of this argument and find facts.

7. The Board must consider a shadow price of the social costs of carbon in project review

The project is a major fossil fuel infrastructure project. It’s lifecycle imapcts involve well drilling and fracking emissions; transmission and distribution emissions; and combustion emissions at the BL England plant.

EPA has developed emissions factors and lifecycle assessment methods to address these issues and derive cumulative lifecycle impacts.

Additionally, EPA applies a “Social Cost of Carbon” (SCC) during regulatory review of major rules, see:


Specifically, EPA has applied a SCC in the Clean Power rule (see regulatory impact assessment):


The Board must include SCC as a shadow price or in otherwise reviewing this project

8. Consistency with all policies of the Energy Master Plan must be considered

The applicant’s presentation cherry picked various policies from the current Energy Master Plan (EMP). Those selective applications of EMP policies led to misleading conclusions.

The Board should review this project for consistency with the totality of the EMP, including energy efficiency, demand management, peak demand management, and renewable energy policies.

9. Impacts on attainment of the emission reduction requirements of the Global Warming Response Act must be assessed

The applicant failed to consider the impacts of the project on the State’s ability to meet the requirements of the GWRA.

The Board must review and find facts with respect to this critical issue, especially for a major fossil infrastructure reject with a 40+ year design life.

10. The Board’s scope of review must consider lifecycle impacts, including secondary and cumulative impacts

11. Emergency service scenarios undermine the applicant’s resilience and reliability arguments

We understand the the Board has ordered the applicant to serve residential and commercial gas customers and stop provision of gas to BL England in the event of a capacity shortfall.

Similarly, a major coastal storm would very likely inundate the BL England plant and known it out of service.

Both these probable scenarios conflict with the applicant’s resilience and reliability arguments. The Baord must address and resolve these conflicts.

12. The applicant’s resilience and reliability arguments to the Board conflict with arguments made to the Pinelands Commission

The “dedicated line” will not be used by or provide gas service benefits to residents of the Pinelands.

The power production at BL England will be distributed by the PJM grid, not to specific consumers in the Pinelands region.

The Board must find facts in this regard.

13. The Board must consider that the BL England Plant is located in a coastal hazard area

The BL England plant is highly vulnerable to climate change indicted sea level rise, storm surge and coastal storms. It is not reliable and will be inundated according to current projections of sea level rise.

Given these facts, it would be irresponsible for the board to approve the project. It will not be “used and useful” for long

14. The Board must determine if there is a need for the project

The applicant relies on outdated PJM demand projections that not only exaggerate demand growth, but fail to adequately include efficiency, demand management, and renewable power

The Board must update these projections and find facts to determine need.

15. The Board should table the application until the Pinelands Commission final agency action on the project


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