Home > Uncategorized > The Strange Death Of The PennEast Pipeline – Part 1

The Strange Death Of The PennEast Pipeline – Part 1

For Years, Pipeline Opponents, The DEP, and The Media Ignored The DEP Regulatory Tool They Now Claim To Have Used To Kill The Pipeline

Instead, Opponents Pursued A Failed Two Prong Strategy That Focused On FERC And Eminent Domain

No lawn signs on fancy homes and Fake Gentleman farms in Hunterdon County - this is what real opposition looks like

No lawn signs on fancy homes and Fake Gentleman farms in Hunterdon County – this is what real opposition looks like

If you’ve read NJ Spotlight lately (see this and this and this and this), then you believe these truths to be self evident:

1) that the PennEast pipeline is dead.

2) that it was killed by Gov. Murphy and DEP.

3) that the murder weapons were DEP’s denial of permits and the Clean Water Act’s Section 401 Water Quality Certificate – acting on the direction of Gov. Murphy.

4) that the DEP’s accomplices in the murder were Rethink NJ (Tom Gilbert), NJ LCV (Ed Potasnak), Environment NJ (Doug O’Malley), Delaware Riverkeeper Network (Maya Van Rossum), and wealthy landowners in Hunterdon County.

5) that the motives were to protect water quality and address the climate crisis by blocking new fossil infrastructure.

6) that this represents some powerful new precedent that will block future fossil infrastructure projects, as NJ Spotlight’s speculative fact free story claimed and headline blared:

But, I’ve been conducting my own inquest and forensic analysis, and have come to some very different conclusions that completely destroy every one of the above 6 elements of the Spotlight narrative:

1) We’ve not recovered the body.

The closest we’ve come to finding a corpse – and a motive, cause of death and suspect – is not in NJ Spotlight  coverage, but in a Philadephia Inquirer story about corporate investors writing off millions of dollars in “impaired” investment.

(just Google: “tax rules on write off of impaired investments”)

2) There has been no autopsy or inquest – And no coroner’s Report, with an official cause of death.

Just the opposite: in fact, DEP is erecting obstacles to access to the public regulatory documents that would provide evidence of what really went on. Senator Bateman has declined to provide the letters to DEP he claims to have written – as have other legislators.

3) The actual motives of the suspects contradict the publicly asserted motives.

In fact, the alleged suspects and accomplices were focused on and brandishing other deadly weapons that not only failed to kill the victim, but had nothing to do with the alleged murder weapons.

In fact, former Christie Administration DEP Commissioner Bob Martin testified to the Legislature that DEP could NOT deny permits and WQC approval.  Martin provided highly misleading responses, basically saying that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) preempted DEP environmental reviews. Martin responded:

They (FERC) are the overall controlling entity on it at the end of the day. They could over-ride anything we could even do from the State of New Jersey. […]

We can not fight that .. If we did reject a pipeline it would end up in court very quickly.

Current Murphy Administration Treasurer Muoio validated Martin’s lies.  As Assemblywoman and sponsor, Muoio introduced a Resolution and said the intent was to:

ensure that FERC provides a comprehensive consideration of cumulative impacts, and gives deference to competing state policy determinations, especially open space and farmland preservation.

Notice the failure of Muoio’s Resolution to mention State policy determinations under Section 401 WQC powers. I was shut down by Chairman Reed Guscioria for making this point in my testimony when I testified:

So what I want to focus on are the competing state policies in NJ that are key, because I don’t think that it is properly and fully understood that under the Natural Gas Act, state and local laws, policies, and standards are pre-empted, with 2 exceptions.

And that’s State powers under the Clean Water Act and State powers under the Coastal Zone Management Act.

Both those powers were recently used in the State of Connecticut to deny a pipeline permit and in the State of New York to deny a pipeline permit.

Those should be the leading cases that we should focus on as a State, because we currently have that authority at the Department of Environmental Protection – right now – to deny permits for these pipelines.

This Administration is not utilizing those powers.

So if the Legislature wants to express a progressive state policy to FERC AND to the Administration and to the people of the State, there has to be inclusion in this  Resolution of the powers of the State under the Clean Water Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act.

The Rethink NJ people, their advocates Assemblywoman Muoio and Chairman Guscioria, and the press all worked hard to suppress my testimony and any focus on the DEP 401 WQC issue.

And DEP themselves, like the denials of Peternever asserted 401 WQC review authority and instead subtly denied those powers.

4) In fact, we’re not sure the victim is even dead:

a) PennEast Pipeline’s statements are vague and conditional;

b) PennEast has not withdrawn or surrendered FERC approvals, which were extended and remain valid;

c) PennEast has not withdrawn DEP permit applications and publicly stated they would not seek DEP approvals.

d) The status of the Pennsylvania segment of the pipeline is equally vague, leaving open the possibility of re-routing in NJ;

e) the NJ Attorney General has not secured finality in pending litigation.

f) FERC is contemplating regulatory policy changes that could impact the pipeline;

g) there is legislation pending in. Congress that could impact the pipeline.

h) President Biden issued an Executive Order that could impact the pipeline.

5) We’ve not recovered the murder weapon – there is no smoking gun, no fingerprints and no crime scene: 

a) there is no document by DEP denying permits (final agency action, on the merits, with prejudice); (My Central Jersey)

The DEP denied the permits because adequate information had not been submitted to complete the application, but it said PennEast could submit a new application.

b) there is no document by DEP denying the WQC (final agency action, on the merits, with prejudice);

c) the DEP Commissioner is silent about and has not publicly explained DEP’s position, or confirmed, praised, or taken credit for the kill – or even supported the policy alleged to have caused the kill;

d) Gov. Murphy’s public statements support the death, but they do not take credit for the kill;

e) the DEP just denied a petition for rulemaking that would have committed DEP to promulgating regulations to block new fossil infrastructure like PennEast;

f) Gov. Murphy’s BPU Energy Master Plan projects continued reliance on natural gas, particularly as a backup source for off shore wind and renewables.

6) The alleged accomplices were nowhere near the murder scene and had no involvement in the alleged murder weapon.

In fact, the alleged accomplices not only ignored and diverted public attention from the alleged murder weapon, but they actively undermined the use of that weapon by others.

wqc10

Let me now expand upon and provide evidence to support these curious conclusions that directly contradict the narrative created by NJ Spotlight.

That analysis will be forthcoming in our next post.

[End Note: The bald headed guy on the left above the “Deny” placard is your author. [Photo Credit: Burlington County Times]

Actually, its kind of creepy. Reminds me of the appearances by Alfred Hitchcock in his movies.]

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