News at RKR Hess

Public Comments Open Regarding Pipeline Near Wetlands and Waterways

The PennEast Pipeline is a proposed 120.2 mile natural gas pipeline, designed to deliver natural gas across two states. The pipeline will begin at two existing interconnects of pipeline and deliver natural gas from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania to Mercer County, New Jersey.

The Philadelphia District of the US Army Corps of Engineers released public notice in September soliciting public comments regarding the locations where the pipeline will cross bodies of water or wetlands.

Find out about those locations from the Army Corps of Engineers.

According to a release, the PennEast project is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) which issued a Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS) on April 10, 2017 for the PennEast project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a cooperating agency on that document.

Public comments are due by Oct. 14, 2017 and can be sent to Penneast-Comments@usace.army.mil.

Learn more about the PennEast Pipeline from RKR Hess:

PennEast Opens STEM Grant Program

The PennEast Pipeline Company announced the opening of the PennEast Powering STEM Grant Program Cycle, which supplies grants of up to $10,000 to nonprofit organizations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The program looks to award organizations that:

*Incorporate energy exploration, distribution, use and/or environmental education into their curriculum;

*Provide individuals of all ages greater access to STEM education;

*Develop a workforce to meet the needs of the region’s continued position as a global energy leader;

*Promote hands-on learning, problem-solving, critical thinking and teamwork;

*Supporting general awareness about energy and environmental-related issues.

The PennEast Powering STEM Grant Program was established in 2014, awarding over $700,000 to organizations making a difference in the community.

Applications are due Oct. 6, 2017 and winners will be announced Oct. 24, 2017. For more information and to apply online, visit Penneastpipeline.com/Powering-Stem.

DRBC to Release Revised Draft Regulations for Public Comment

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) announced in September that it will release a revised set of draft regulations for public comment, addressing natural gas development activities within the Delaware River Basin.

In December 2010, the DRBC drafted and published environmental protection regulations for the watershed that were open for public comment until April 15, 2011. After reviewing these comments, the DRBC then published a revised version on November 8, 2011; however, the special meeting to consider adoption of the revised regulations was postponed until now.

Last year, a group of Pennsylvania Senators filed suit to life the moratorium on drilling in the Delaware River Basin, questioning whether the DRBC has the authority to prevent hydraulic fracturing in the basin. In January, a judge denied their right to participate in the suit.

While no new regulations were finalized at a Sept. 13 meeting, the decision to publish the draft by Nov. 30 pushed the rulemaking into a new phase. The DRBC has not set a timeline for voting on final regulations. Until the DRBC approves the regulations, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) will not issue permits for drilling.

According to a DRBC news release, the draft will include prohibitions on horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing within the river basin as well as guidelines to ensure safe storage, treatment, disposal and discharge of related waste.

A full public comment period, including opportunities for written comment, will open after the revised draft is released. Details about that period will be available on Nov. 30.

The DRBC is a regional body with the goal to oversee management of the Delaware River system across state boundaries. It was created in 1961 as an interstate compact in response to a 1954 Supreme Court decision to settle water use disputes among Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and New Jersey. The DRBC consists of the governors from the four states and the Division Engineer of the North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The DRBC employs a staff of engineers, biologists, geologists, and other specialists.

Updated information can be found at the DRBC website.

 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Publishes Final Hydraulic Fracturing Study

Click here to download a PDF version of this document. 

In December 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the final version of the “Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources in the United States” (the “Study”).  This Study is the result of work that began with a scoping document drafted in 2010 and included peer reviews, technical roundtables, and public comments that involved more than 100,000 people. The EPA maintains a repository of information regarding the Study online at www.epa.gov/hfstudy. This repository includes the Final Report from the Study, which can be downloaded by clicking here and then selecting the gray “Downloads” tab and choosing from the following documents:

RKR Hess has been following the progress of the report (here and here) and is pleased to provide a high-level review of the findings, highlights of data and conclusions specifically relevant to Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania, and links to additional information. We have maintained figure and text box references to the images pulled from the above reports so that they can be easily found in the context of the original report.

 Read more

PA Senators Seek to Lift DRBC Moratorium on Drilling in the Delaware River Basin

A group of Pennsylvania senators is joining in an ongoing lawsuit that questions the authority of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the river basin.

Senators Lisa Baker, Joseph Scarnati and Gene Yaw have filed to join a lawsuit brought by a landowners’ group called the Wayne Land and Mineral Group, LLC (WLMG), according to The River Reporter. The original lawsuit by the landowners sought to reverse a decision by the DRBC not to issue a permit for an exploratory well.

The senators’ motion to intervene questions whether the DRBC has the authority to prevent hydraulic fracturing in the basin. In a motion to join the suit, the senators claim the DRBC has worked around existing Pennsylvania state laws (specifically Act 13), according to the Pocono Record.

The DRBC is a regional body with the goal to oversee management of the Delaware River system across state boundaries. It was created in 1961 as an interstate compact in response to a 1954 Supreme Court decision to settle water use disputes among Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and New Jersey. The DRBC consists of the governors from the four states and the Division Engineer of the North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The DRBC employs a staff of engineers, biologists, geologists, and other specialists.

In 2010, the DRBC voted to postpone well drilling in the basin until the commission could adopt further regulations.  Proposed regulations were released in 2010, and revisions were published in 2011; however, the DRBC has not voted on final regulations and has not set a timeline for doing so. Until the DRBC approves the regulations, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) will not issue permits for drilling.  Earlier this year, the commission announced that it would hold public hearings in response to public safety concerns surrounding construction of a pipeline that would potentially carry natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation to interconnects near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Mercer County, New Jersey.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) also filed to join the landowners’ lawsuit, citing a need to ensure that health and safety issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing would be addressed. The DRN is a nonprofit organization created to protect rights to “pure water, clean air and a healthy environment,” according to its website.

The suit is entering the discovery stage, according to the Pocono Record, but a timeline for the process has not been published.

FERC Releases PennEast Pipeline Draft Impact Statement

Public comments are now open on the PennEast Pipeline Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), released in July and prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in cooperation with several other agencies.

The over 1,000-page DEIS examines the possible effects of the 119-mile pipeline, proposed to carry one billion cubic feet per day of natural gas between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“Approval of this project would result in some adverse environmental impacts; however, most of these impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of PennEast’s proposed mitigation and additional recommendations in the draft EIS,” the draft states.

The DEIS indicates that the environmental and visual impact of the pipeline would be “effectively minimized or mitigated” based on the project’s current plans. These impacts include disruption to five threatened or endangered animal and plant species located along the 119-mile stretch.

The DEIS concluded that the PennEast Pipeline would “contribute to a cumulative improvement in regional air quality if a portion of the natural gas associated with the project displaces the use of other more polluting fossil fuels.”

Opponents of the pipeline argue that mitigation throughout the project will not be enough to limit the pipeline’s potential damage to the environment.

In a news release addressing the DEIS, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network said, “For those who think that the issuance of this document and the FERC finding that mitigation is enough to address the immense and irreparable harms the PennEast Pipeline would inflict means the project is a done deal, that’s just not the case.”

Pennsylvania and New Jersey have yet to issue Clean Water Act certifications, and the project has not yet been approved by the Delaware River Basin Commission. However, the DEIS cited a November 2017 projected start date for the project, pending all necessary state and agency approvals.

Released on July 22, the draft’s public comments phase will close 45 days later on Sept. 5. That period includes six public comment meetings throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Comments about the DEIS are due to the FERC by September 5, 2016.  There are four ways to submit comments:

  1. For brief, text-only comments, use the eComment feature under the Documents and Filings link at the FERC website.
  2. For longer comments or comments that are in an electronic file, use the eFiling feature under the Documents and Filings link at the FERC website. (You must create an account to use the eFiling system.)
  3. Paper comments should be mailed to:Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary
    Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
    888 First Street NE, Room 1A
    Washington, DC 20426
  4. Public comment meetings will be held to record oral comments. The meetings are scheduled as follows:
  • Monday, August 15, 2016
    6-10 p.m.
    Best Western Lehigh Valley Hotel & Conference Center
    300 Gateway Drive
    Bethlehem, PA 18017
  • Monday, August 15, 2016
    6-10 p.m.
    Penn’s Peak
    325 Maury Road
    Jim Thorpe, PA 18229
  • Tuesday, August 16, 2016
    6-10 p.m.
    Grand Colonial
    86 Route 173 West
    Hampton, NJ 08827
  • Tuesday, August 16, 2016
    6-10 p.m.
    Peddler’s Village
    (Lahaska and Neshaminy Rooms)
    Routes 202 & 263
    Lahaska, PA 19831
  • Wednesday, August 17, 2016
    6-10 p.m.
    Best Western Genetti Hotel & Conference Center
    77 E. Market Street
    Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701
  • Wednesday, August 17, 2016
    6-10 p.m.
    Clifford B. Memorial Hall
    1666 Pennington Road
    Ewing, NJ 08618

The Rewards and Risks of Natural Gas Pipelines

A possible 4,800 feet of natural gas pipeline from Delmont, Pa., to Lambertville, N.J., could be completed as early as 2018, according to the Energy Information Administration. The new pipeline would add to the area’s existing 6,800 feet of pipeline completed prior to 2014.  But the benefits and risks of natural gas pipelines are still being weighed against each other as advocates and opponents of the project battle it out in courts of law and the court of public opinion.

In 2005, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing methods made it possible to capture natural gas from shale. Less than a decade later, in 2014 Pennsylvania became the second-largest natural gas supplier in the country according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

An analysis by Argonne National Laboratory in 2010 indicated that natural gas is the “cleanest burning commercially available alternative fuel,” and the potential impact of a natural gas market is fueled by regional large companies with reliable energy needs. Today, the rate of drilling has surpassed the infrastructure in place to transport natural gas to the market. The DEP estimates that approximately 30 percent of the wells drilled for natural gas have no means for the gas to reach consumers.

In Pennsylvania, the proposed 118-mile PennEast Pipeline would transport that natural gas and serve two states. A study released by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce noted that increased demand in the Philadelphia region, combined with an excess natural gas supply, presents the opportunity for Pennsylvania to become an important East Coast energy hub. The study cited the potential impact the Marcellus Shale industry could have on economic revitalization in the region.

Currently, no single federal or state agency has oversight of pipeline infrastructure.  In 2011, the Public Utility Commission was given the legal authority to conduct safety inspections, but only for pipelines in populated areas (i.e., Class 2, 3, and 4 pipelines).  In 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf created a Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force that held several public meetings. Recommendations from the task force included creating long-term operations and maintenance plans, reducing environmental impact in construction phases, and creating an atmosphere that maximizes the efficiency of permits and reviews. A final report, filed in February by the Pipeline Infrastructure Taskforce, recommended that the next steps include assessing which regulations recommended in the report fall under the state’s jurisdiction.

Safety concerns have become a reality. In May 2016, a natural gas explosion severely burned one person in Salem Township, Pa., and blew a hole 1,500-square-feet in diameter 12 feet deep into the ground. The resulting fire burned approximately 40 acres, according to NPR’s State Impact. The Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Association issued a corrective order following the incident, citing possible corrosion on the pipeline, which “indicates a possible flaw in the coating material.” Spectra Energy, the company that owns the pipeline, stated that a 2012 inspection revealed no such flaws.

In response to growing safety and land-use concerns, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is conducting multiple public hearings in Pennsylvania and New Jersey during its technical review of the PennEast plan. The DRBC is a regional body with the goal to oversee management of the Delaware River system across state boundaries. No meetings are scheduled during 2016, but future meeting schedules will be available on the DRBC website.

New regulations and long-term plans are still under review with both regulatory bodies and legislators. In June, the Pennsylvania House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved an amendment to exclude conventional drilling companies from proposed regulations for the Marcellus Shale industry, citing differences between how the two methods of extraction operate.  A spokesman for Governor Wolf declined to indicate whether or not the Governor approved of the amendment, and instead expressed the intention to continue working with the legislature on regulations for the oil and gas industry.

RKR Hess Honored With ASCE Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award

ASCE AwardThe Lehigh Valley section of the American Society of Civil Engineering honored the civil engineering team at RKR Hess, a division of UTRS, Inc., for its work on the Aquatopia indoor waterpark at Camelback Resort in Monroe County, Pennsylvania.

The Aquatopia feature of the resort is the largest ever built in a single phase and the largest ski-in/ski-out waterpark hotel in the country, according to Lehigh Valley Business.

Nate Oiler, Engineer and Land Development Section Manager, accepted the Oustanding Civil Engineering Achievement award on behalf of RKR Hess, which shared the award with Geo-Technology Associates, Inc., and G.m.a Structural, LLC.

The construction of Aquatopia included large infrastructure improvements, such as a new pump station to address new sanitation needs with the expanded water systems. Despite the size and scope of the project, several aspects were completed ahead of schedule, and the resort remained open at full capacity thanks to collaboration between all involved.

RKR Hess, the civil and environmental engineering division of Universal Technical Resource Services, Inc. (UTRS), is located in East Stroudsburg, Pa. RKR Hess has an 80-year history of providing the highest quality engineering consulting services to both public and private sectors, maintaining a tradition of excellence and integrity. Our cadre of professionals, which includes Professional Engineers, surveyors, land planners and environmental scientists, provides a broad range of engineering and planning services to meet all our clients’ needs.

EPA Looks to Public for Input on the Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water

The Environmental Protection Agency is holding a public teleconference, run by the Science Advisory Board’s Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel, to discuss the first draft of the peer review report of the Hydraulic Fracturing Drinking Water Assessment.

The “Draft Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources” investigates the potential impacts on human health and the environment hydraulic fracturing may have on the quality of drinking water at each stage of the hydraulic fracturing water cycle. The draft estimates 25,000-30,000 new wells were drilled annually between 2011 and 2014. Most of these wells were drilled in Texas; Pennsylvania ranked third in number of wells drilled during the period covered.

Between the years 2000 and 2013, the report estimated 9.4 million people lived within one mile of a hydraulically fractured well. In addition, approximately 6,800 drinking water sources for public water systems were within one mile of at least one hydraulically fractured well between 2000 and 2013.

Find out more in about the assessment in a previous RKR Hess blog post.

The EPA will take into account the comments from the advisory board in conjunction with comments from the public in its evaluation of the peer review report.

The public teleconference will take place on Monday, Feb. 1 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. To participate, visit the Science Advisory Board website.

 

Application Submitted for PennEast Pipeline to Proceed With Construction

An application to construct a 118-mile pipeline that will carry natural gas between Pennsylvania and New Jersey was submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in September by PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC (FERC Docket #CP15-558) The proposed pipeline would transport gas from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, to other pipelines near Trenton, New Jersey.

An interactive map of the proposed route is available online from PennEast Pipeline. Because the pipeline, which will transport Marcellus Shale gas, will serve two states, the federal government maintains regulatory authority over its construction. The pipeline will be 36 inches in diameter and run underground. According to a PennEast Pipeline Company news release, the pipeline is expected to deliver approximately 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. If approved, construction could begin in 2017.

The PennEast Pipeline Company, headquartered in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, is comprised of several pipeline and energy companies, including PSEG Power LLC, SJI Midstream, Spectra Energy Partners, AGL Resources, NJR Pipeline Company, and UGI Energy Services. UGI serves as the project manager for the effort and would be the operator of the pipeline once it is completed. The project is publicly supported by organizations such as the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, and the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association.

A study by Econsult Solutions and Drexel University concluded that construction of the pipeline would result in approximately $890 million in direct expenditures and approximately $730 million in indirect and induced economic impacts (a total of approximately $1.62 billion in overall economic impact). According to that study, construction of the pipeline is expected to support more than 12,000 jobs. The same study projected annual recurring economic impacts of approximately $23 million, including support for approximately 98 jobs.

Another study, by Concentric Energy Advisors, examined the theoretical effect of the proposed pipeline if it had been in service during the winter of 2013/2014. This period was selected because the cost of natural gas reached record pricing and was extremely volatile. The study concluded that if an additional 1 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas had been available at the time, ratepayers in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey could have saved $893 million.

Opposition to the pipeline alleges that its construction will not reduce the cost of energy because it is believed the natural gas will be exported instead of used domestically and the plan to cut through 4,000 acres of preserved open space and farmland is being questioned. According to NPR’s StateImpact, in some cases local landowners may be asked to lease their property to house the pipeline underground. In many cases, these landowners have not yet granted access to surveyors. According to the New Jersey Sierra Club, the project crosses 88 waterways, 44 wetlands, 33 farms, and the Delaware River. The Concerned Citizens Against the Pipeline documents more than 25 municipalities, townships, or counties where resolutions in opposition to the pipeline have been introduced.

Approximately 1,440 people or organizations have registered as interveners with the FERC. Registration provides the opportunity to present evidence for or against the pipeline and provides standing to appeal the FERC’s decision in federal court. Public comments to date about the PennEast pipeline are made available online by the FERC. An additional opportunity for public comment will occur once a draft Environmental Impact Statement is completed.