Delaware Riverkeeper a/k/a Povertykeeper Loses Yet Again in Court

delaware riverkeeper - Jim Willis reports

Jim Willis
Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)


The Delaware Riverkeeper a/k/a Povertykeeper has lost yet again in pursuing a challenge to a pipeline project that should have received no opposition at all.

A year after Delaware Riverkeeper filed a request for a rehearing of an approval for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) Orion Project, FERC has rejected it. What’s interesting is two-fold; how FERC handled the rehearing request and its rejection of the Delaware Riverkeeper cumulative impact argument. There’s also the little matter of where the Povertykeeper gets the money to pursue its long legal slog against any natural gas development.

In October 2015, Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) seeking approval for the Orion Project. The $109 million project consists of 13 miles of new “looping” pipeline in Pike and Wayne counties, Pennsylvania. The project boosts capacity on the TGP by another 135 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d), allowing TGP to pump more yummy Marcellus Shale gas to Mid-Atlantic and New England states.

Delaware Riverkeeper

Tennessee Gas Pipeline (a few miles before the Orion Project) that was similarly upgraded a few years ago – about ¼ mile from NaturalGasNOW editor’s home

FERC gave final approval for the project in February 2017. Big Green group THE Delaware Riverkeeper immediately filed a rehearing request with FERC. A month later Riverkeeper also filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third District requesting the court overturn a Clean Water Act permit granted to the project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In August 2017, the Third Circuit rejected Riverkeeper’s request in a humiliating defeat.

The project was completed late last year and FERC granted permission for it to go online.

We find it kind of humorous that yesterday, FERC finally responded to Riverkeeper (and several other radical Big Green groups); rejecting their request for a rehearing of the project. Ah, yeah. Like, the project is already built and flowing gas!

We doubt THE Delaware Riverkeeper herself, Maya van Rossum, seriously thought FERC would grant her request for a rehearing. It’s just legal paperwork for Riverkeeper–a way to try and tie up the system in knots.

The final Orion humiliation for Riverkeeper, courtesy of FERC may be viewed here.

Editor’s Note: As we noted here, this Delaware Riverkeeper challenge was a particularly slimy one that suggested a compressor station that it would oppose under any other circumstance was a better alternative. Its sister entity, the Clean Air Council, also funded by the William Penn Foundation, and it would have both challenged that alternative, in fact, had  TGP chosen to pursue that option. The point of all Delaware Riverkeeper (and Clean Air Council) opposition is simply to delay, frustrate and halt all oil and gas development anywhere it occurs anyway it can using the bottomless pit off cash provided by the William Penn Foundation to conduct a war of lawsuits.

Part of that strategy is to file harassing lawsuits at every opportunity regardless of the prospects for success. The Delaware Riverkeeper, in fact, relentless pursues what are variants of the “strategic lawsuit against public participation” (SLAPP) lawsuits it routinely accuses everyone else of doing. All radicals do this: accuse their targets of doing what they’re doing. It’s Alinsky 101.

As Jim points out here, though, FERC is onto this strategy and not cooperating. They’re delaying responses to rehearing requests until the projects are completed. It’s tit for tat and long overdue. Fight harassment with harassment!

FERC is also onto the phony “cumulative impact” game, which is nothing more than an excuse to enlarge projects to the point the Delaware Riverkeeper and friends have a big enough target to do real damage to natural gas development as an industry. They know the upgrading of an existing pipeline has no significant on the environment. It isn’t about the the environment, the Delaware River or anything but an ideological war against oil and gas and for political power to be gained by controlling energy and the economy. Here’s how FERC dealt with the argument (in part):

…the question of whether multiple actions “constitute cumulative actions that must be analyzed together is” circular in nature and depends on whether the projects will have “cumulatively significant impacts…

The “determination of the extent and effect of [cumulative impacts], and particularly identification of the geographic area within which they may occur, is a task assigned to the special competency of the appropriate agencies.” CEQ has explained that “it is not practical to analyze the cumulative effects of an action on the universe; the list of environmental effects must focus on those that are truly meaningful.”

Further, a cumulative impact analysis need only include “such information as appears to be reasonably necessary under the circumstances for evaluation of the project rather than to be so all-encompassing in scope that the task of preparing it would become either fruitless or well-nigh impossible.”

An agency’s analysis should be proportional to the magnitude of the environmental impacts of a proposed action; actions that will have no significant direct and indirect impacts usually require only a limited cumulative effects analysis.

Common sense prevailed. Thank goodness. Some day it won’t, though, and that’s what the  Delaware Riverkeeper is counting on; that some day, some court will chip away at it and give power-hungry antis a weakened interpretation that expands the definition of cumulative impact just a bit and then a bit more until we slide all the way to the bottom of the slippery slope where oil and gas development is virtually impossible. That’s why I say, yet again, the industry and those who believe in the right to develop their resources and control their livelihoods need to take the offense against the Povertykeeper organization and its reprehensible trust-funder sugar-daddy, the William Penn  Foundation. 

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